Kansas City ’s location on the southern banks of the Missouri River lends itself to a gently rolling terrain throughout the area. It’s a geography that’s a pleasing hybrid of the expansive prairies of Kansas and the hillier terrain that’s a signature of Missouri’s Ozarks region.
Weather-wise, Kansas City knows how to introduce each of the four seasons. A modified continental climate often leads to dramatic temperature changes, especially in early spring and again in late fall. Winters can be cold and snowy, with average temperatures that hover around the freezing mark. Summers are a marked contrast, with average temperatures in the mid-70s.
During July and August, however, the weather can be hot; add a high degree of humidity, and you’ve got a recipe for swampy days best spent inside or in close proximity to a swimming pool. Spring and fall are favorite weather times in Kansas City, when mild temperatures and abundant sunshine entice residents and visitors outside, whether for a picnic, a nap, or a leisurely stroll. Pack an umbrella, even if the advanced forecast doesn’t indicate rain.
Weather changes quickly in Kansas City, thanks to fast-moving weather systems that propel eastward across Kansas and northward from the Gulf of Mexico. Skies can quickly cloud, causing a sudden change in temperatures. In the spring and summer months, severe thunderstorms are prevalent, a by-product of the city’s location in the heart of Tornado Alley. In the winter, snow and ice storms can be difficult to predict and pinpoint.
On average, the city receives just over 20 inches of snowfall each winter, most of which is concentrated during a few winter storms that range from moderate to severe in terms of precipitation generated and travel difficulties posed.
Because Kansas City  straddles Missouri and Kansas, visitors have an ideal opportunity to see foliage and wildlife common to both states. Wildflowers and grasses are common sites along the city’s interstates and highways, although be aware that picking these plants is illegal.
While you’re out and about, look for these 10 common native plants that thrive amid the city’s weather conditions: bluestar, blue false indigo, willowleaf sunflower, smooth hydrangea, spicebush, cardinal flower, ninebark, fringe tree, christmas fern, and sourgum. The Missouri state tree, the dogwood, and the Kansas state tree, the cottonwood, are both prevalent throughout Kansas City, as are Bradford pears and several varieties of oak trees.
Arguably the most common animal sighting in the Kansas City area is deer, often subjected to overcrowding because of habitat loss. In fact, deer have become so prevalent in some of the outlying parks that city councils have approved the controlled hunting of deer in an effort to thin out the population.
A gradual outward growth that began in the mid-1900s has created an overwhelming reliance on the automobile, a practice that has had hazardous effects on Kansas City ’s environment and air quality. Ground-level ozone, produced by emissions generated from vehicles, lawn mowers, power plants, and industries, can become a problem during the summer months, when hot temperatures and high humidity create a blanket conducive to trapping ozone emissions at or near ground-level.
Local media outlets publish daily SkyCasts, which rate the following day’s air quality on a scale from good (green) to red alert. When an orange or red ozone alert is issued, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority issues fare discounts on the Metro, the Jo, and Unified Government Transit as a way to entice people to rely less on cars and instead opt for public transportation. Motorists are also encouraged to fuel up during afternoon and evening hours, a practice that results in a decrease of potentially harmful emissions.
City-wide expansion has also led to a concern about producing sustainable structures that have less of an environmental impact. A proliferation of mixed-use districts indicates the city’s commitment to creating walkable areas that give residents a place to live, work, and play all within a short radius. More and more Kansas City buildings are being built to LEED standards, indicating a use of responsible construction materials; energy-efficient wiring, HVAC, and lighting systems; and other green qualifications.