Smelling smoke? Kansas City forecasters says western wildfires are partly to blame

Kansas City smoke

Western wildfires and a front moving through the Midwest are reasons why Johnson Countians may have smelt smoke the last couple of days, the National Weather Service Kansas City field office says. Above, a diagram of how the front is impacting several midwest states — including Kansas and Missouri. Image via AccuWeather.

During the last few days, Johnson Countians may have smelt a whiff of smoke in the air and woken up to skies tinged with orange.

The National Weather Service’s Kansas City field office says it could be because some flumes from western wildfires trickled into the area.

It’s becoming more and more common for Midwesterners to feel the impacts from western wildfires, KCUR reports, affecting local air quality.

That’s a product of climate change, researchers says, and residents in places like Johnson County, who live thousands of miles away from typical wildfire hot spots in California, could experience more smoky days and poorer air quality in the future.

Why now?

Last month, wildfires in Canada and the western U.S. produced a massive smoky haze that hovered over much of the central U.S., including the Kansas City region for a couple of days.

It lowered the region’s air quality from green to yellow, meaning air quality at that time was slightly diminished.

Meteorologist Brent Pesel with the National Weather Service’s Kansas City field office in Pleasant Hill, Mo., said this week’s smoky smell is not entirely due to wildfires.

A front is leading to a temperature inversion, as well, which causes warmer temperatures above Earth’s surface to trap lower air near the surface and prevents ventilation.

“There’s just a little bit [of smoke] creeping into our area, but it looks like it dissipates in the morning hours as the inversion breaks down,” Pesel said. “You might recall a month or so ago when the sky was really hazy, it was really smoky — this is not as bad as that was.”

Kansas City isn’t the only area feeling impacts from the front, though.

Other states in the central and upper U.S. are seeing record high temperatures this week, with portions of the Dakotas hitting 100 degrees — when it’s normally around 67 degrees this time of year, AccuWeather reports.

Pesel said the inversion will eventually ventilate out. Additionally, he said it will move through the area throughout the week, and that upcoming rainfall will improve the inversion.

The air quality in the Kansas City region as of Sept. 30 “is pretty good,” Pesel said.

The National Weather Services releases an air quality updates each day, and you can check here for the latest data.