Climate change In Missouri and what it means to you

Our climate is changing because the earth is warming. Here’s a quick glance at what that means to you.

Missouri’s climate is changing. Most of the state has warmed one-half to one degree (F) in the last century, and floods are becoming more frequent. In the coming decades, the state will have more extremely hot days, which may harm public health in urban areas and corn harvests in rural areas.

Our climate is changing because the earth is warming. People have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the air by 40 percent since the late 1700s. Other heat-trapping greenhouse gases are also increasing. These gases have warmed the surface and lower atmosphere of our planet about one degree during the last 50 years.

Evaporation increases as the atmosphere warms, which increases humidity, average rainfall, and the frequency of heavy rainstorms in many places—but contributes to drought in others.
August 2016
EPA 430-F-16-027

Heavy Precipitation and Flooding

Changing the climate is likely to increase the frequency of floods in Missouri. Over the last half century, average annual precipitation in most of the Midwest has increased by 5 to 10 percent. But rainfall during the four wettest days of the year has increased about 35 percent, and the amount of water flowing in most streams during the worst flood of the year has increased by more than 20 percent. During the next century, spring rainfall and average precipitation are likely to increase, and
severe rainstorms are likely to intensify. Each of these factors will tend to further
increase the risk of flooding.

Mississippi and Missouri Rivers

Flooding occasionally threatens navigation and riverfront communities, and greater river flows could increase these threats. In April and May 2011, a combination of heavy rainfall and melting snow caused a flood that closed the Mississippi River to navigation, threatened Caruthersville, and prompted evacuation of Cairo, Illinois, due to concerns that its flood protection levees might fail. To protect Cairo, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway, which lowered the river by flooding more than 100,000 acres of farmland in Missouri. Later that spring, heavy rains and rapid snowmelt upstream led to flooding along the Missouri River, which damaged property and closed the river to navigation.

Although springtime in Missouri is likely to be wetter, summer droughts are likely to be more severe. Higher evaporation and lower summer rainfall are likely to reduce river flows. The drought of 2012 narrowed navigation channels, forced lock closures, and caused dozens of barges to run aground on the Mississippi River along the Missouri shoreline. The resulting impact on navigation cost the region more than $275 million. The drought of 2012–2013 also threatened municipal and industrial water users along the Missouri River.
Temperature change (°F):

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