KANSAS CITY, Mo. — You may notice a handful of new alerts to your cell phone each year due to incoming thunderstorms. The National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be sending these alerts out for the strongest storms. Despite this though, it will be a rare occurrence for our area because the alerts will be set up to a certain criteria. A criteria that happens infrequently in this region.
More on that in the discussion.
Meanwhile the big weather stories for now locally are the break from the heat, the insane amount of smoke in the atmosphere leading to our worse air quality in years, and what looks like a resurgence of heat and humidity heading into the weekend.
Today: Smoky skies and pleasant temperatures/humidity with highs in the lower 80s.
Tonight: Fair and pleasant with lows near 60°.
Tomorrow: About the same with highs in the low-to-mid-80s.
Wednesday: Mostly sunny and mild with highs in the mid-80s.
Let’s start with the poor air quality.
Remember a couple of years ago in the fall when a cold front came through the region and there was the smell of poop in the air. The atmosphere set up to allow some of the “farmland” smells to get caught up in an advancing cooler air mass and when it moved into the area the cooler air got trapped at the surface and we had that “smell.”
So the same sort of thing happened yesterday. A bit different but sort of the same thing. There has been a crazy amount of smoke in the atmosphere over the past few months. Air quality nationwide has been in pretty rough shape at times. Yesterday was the worse for us. We’ll see about today.
You could see it on the satellite pictures mid day yesterday.
It was very prevalent all day long, so much so that you could even smell it. It was a bit of an irritant as well. I noticed it on my daily walk. My throat was scratchy at times, which was unusual.
The poor air quality was reflected in the various air quality monitors in the area.
It got worse overnight as the inversion set up and the pollution was becoming trapped at the surface. This was from about midnight this morning.
Notice how one of the monitors went to red status which is “unhealthy.”
Already this morning, as I type this, it’s not great.
Not a lot we can do about this. There are a lot of fires still going out there and in Canada. The Canadian fires are actually the key right now to our smoke.
There are 74 “large” fires going right now that aren’t contained.
Our issue though (in terms of current smoke in our skies) is actually from the fires in Canada I believe.
Here are all the hot spots up there. Hot spots are satellite detections of fires.
I ran a reverse model to determine where our air has been coming from lately. Over the past five days, the air that has moved into the Kansas City area actually came from northern Canada. We’re tapping into the smoke from central Canada.
The top part of the graph show where the air was five days ago. The bottom part shows where an air “bubble” was in relation to how many meters above the ground it was and as it descended. Why did we smell smoke this time? Because the “bubble” of air moved through the smoke in central Canada several thousand feet up, then came downwards as it moved through the northern U.S. and into the Kansas City area yesterday.
Essentially we’re breathing air that was about 5,000 feet above us several days ago. What was up there? Smoke!
The same phenomena happened back east a couple of weeks ago if you remember.
Now it’s also possible the smoke we’re smelling is from the air in Canada but higher aloft there may be some mixed in smoke from out west as well. It’s coming to us from all directions it seems. Not really, but you get the idea.
OK now to the title of the blog.
You may have received over the years Wireless Emergency Alerts on your cell phone. Perhaps for Amber alerts with missing children, or tornado warnings. These automatically come to your phone and are based on the GPS on your phone. Your phone will alert you with a loud tone. From the FCC:
“WEA is a public safety system that allows customers who own compatible mobile devices to receive geographically targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area.”
So starting today, there are going to be another layer of alerts for severe thunderstorms, but only the strongest storms. Not the regular, usually ignored severe thunderstorm warnings that I complain about and have tried to get changed for years now because too many are issued and no one really cares (triggered ;)).
You will notice your cell phone alerting you via WEA if the following criteria are met. A severe storm with winds of 80-plus mph and/or 2.75 inch hail.
Now it’s important to realize that these types of storms aren’t that common around here. Take a look below: Since 2010, only 2% of all the severe thunderstorm warnings issued would trigger this WEA alert
This to me is a good thing. 1) They would be rare, so hopefully not overused, leading to folks trying to figure out how to turn off the WEA alerts. 2) It helps in picking out the strongest of the strong storms. 3) Hail 2.75-plus inches will do a lot of property damage. 4) Winds 80 mph will do a lot of damage as well, essentially equivalent to a high-end EF-0 tornado. 5) There have been even stronger non-tornadic storms that now can be alerted for.
There are probably a few other reasons why I think this is a good idea. Again, they’re meant for the strongest of the storms and not the “usual” severe thunderstorm warning which we get way too many of that most ignore (triggered :)).
OK that’s it for a lengthy post. Next rain chance is Thursday, with 90s returning after that into the weekend. More on that on Wednesday. No blog tomorrow. Enjoy the weather, not the smoke!
The feature photo comes from John Wood who was flying over eastern Washington the other day. Note all the smoke hugging the terrain.