The Mid-America Regional Council, or MARC, releases a Skycast each day with a forecast of ozone air quality. The third orange ozone alert in 2016 for the Kansas City area was issued for Thursday. It recommended "limiting prolonged outdoor exertion" by children and adults, especially those with respiratory issues, such as asthma.
In recent years, ozone alerts haven't been issued until July, says Amanda Graor, MARC's air quality program manager.
"The last time we saw an ozone alert this early was 2012, which was another summer that was really hot and dry all summer long. And we ended up with 20-plus ozone alerts that summer," says Graor. "But since then, in 2013, '14, and '15, we’ve only had a handful. Last year, we only had one."
Whether this summer will result in a high number of ozone alert days depends on a few factors, including the weather.
"If we get stuck in this hot and dry pattern, then we could very well see something like we saw in 2012," she says. "Before that, 2007 was really the last year that we had similar hot and dry conditions that contributed to high ozone levels."
Since the Skycasts started up again in April, MARC has been making forecasts based on federal ozone standards updated in 2015. Because of those tightened standards, Graor says, some ozone alerts might be issued this year that wouldn't have been issued in previous years.
"Studies from the EPA, scientists and medical professionals have shown that a lower ozone level can actually cause health issues. That standard got lowered as well. So we are forecasting to that lower standard this year for the first time," she says.
Despite some ozone level spikes some years, such as 2012 and 2007, Graor says she thinks the Kansas City metro area is heading in the right direction.
"The air is cleaner now than it was 15 years ago," she says. "Generally Kansas City has good air quality for a major metropolitan area."
Laura Spencer is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can find her on Twitter, @lauraspencer.