Ground-level ozone in the Kansas City region is an air quality problem, exceeding the federal health standards at times, and causing health problems for many citizens. Johnson and Wyandotte Counties in Kansas, and Jackson, Clay, and Platte Counties in Missouri, collectively make up the Kansas City "airshed" that is subject to air pollution regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). All five counties in two states work together along with the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to monitor and evaluate sources of air pollution and work to decrease it.
There is an established "ozone season" for the Kansas City region; April 1st through October 31st every year. Historically, June through August is when most exceedances occur.
The images below show downtown Kansas City on a good ozone day (on left) and a bad ozone day.
Criteria Air Pollutants
EPA has set national air quality standards (or health limits) for six air pollutants (also referred to as "Criteria Pollutants".) These are the six criteria pollutants:
- sulfur dioxide
- particulate matter
- carbon monoxide
- nitrogen oxides
- ground-level ozone.
Find out how each of these pollutants is formed, how they affect human health and public welfare, and what is being done to reduce them at EPA's Six Common Air Pollutants. EPA is required by the Clean Air Act to periodically review the standards for each of these pollutants to ensure that the standard is protective of human health and the environment. EPA is tentatively scheduled to start a review of the standard for ozone by the end of 2013.
Kansas City has historically had problems with ozone in the metro area for many years and we are still working to remain within the standard.
Ozone Movies and Maps
The EPA provides real-time animated movies of ozone levels in the metro area. While these movies aren't in the same category as "The Godfather," "True Grit" or "Saving Private Ryan", they are still worth watching.
Ozone movies use real-time air monitoring data to show the Air Quality Index (AQI) which is the ozone air pollution levels throughout the region. Most of the time you will notice ozone forming in the urban area and then moving "out of town" by the afternoon. However, on some occasions. The ozone is being transported from one area to another area when it is actually forming at different rates in the two areas. You can also view yesterday's ozone levels as well. To understand what is really being shown in the ozone movies you must take into account differences in ozone formation rates in different areas as well as transport by varying wind speeds and directions at all times of the day.
There are several views of the map of the United States: the ozone forecast, the current AQI, AQI animation, and more. To get a closer look, click on Kansas or whatever state you're interested in viewing.
But Wait! There's More...
The Missouri of Natural Resources has movies shot from the Kansas City Air Pollution Camera that is situated on top of the Blue Ridge Mall Office Building in Independence. The movies show the air quality above the Kansas City skyline. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page for an explanation of what you are seeing in the videos.