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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s summer, and that means heat, humidity and occasional storms for the Midwest. But for the western half of the United States, it usually means extreme drought and wildfires. And this year’s no different.

Fires have been raging across the western and northwestern states for the last few months, and even western and central Canada is getting in on the wildfire activity.

Smoky skies during the summertime isn’t all that unusual for the middle of the country, but the amount of smoke in our skies of late has been very impressive!

Yesterday, it was difficult to tell the difference between the sky and the afternoon clouds because of the milky, white backdrop. And the smoke in the upper atmosphere was easy to spot on satellite Sunday morning:

Haze and a smoky, white sky can still be seen in the middle of the day Monday from FOX4’s towercam.

Downtown Kansas City, Missouri seen on towercam midday on Aug. 2, 2021.
Downtown Kansas City, Missouri seen on towercam midday on Aug. 2, 2021.

So why are we seeing the effect of fires 1,000-plus miles away?

It all has to do with the wind direction above our heads. About 18,000 feet up, the winds are circling around an area of high pressure out west. Air is travelling from the Pacific Ocean into California, then turning north into Canada.

From there, it taps into the wildfire smoke across the northwestern U.S. and western Canada before heading southeast into the Central Plains, right over us.

This pattern really won’t be breaking down tomorrow or Wednesday. So in the meantime, an Air Quality Alert has been issued for the Kansas City metro area.

If you have trouble breathing or have heart/lung problems, try to limit your time outside through Wednesday.

Air quality should improve for Thursday as the upper-level winds flip around out of the southwest with a weak disturbance coming through the Kansas City area, bringing more clouds and possibly some scattered showers.