The Evolution of Climate in Missouri
Updated: Oct 13, 2020
Knowing the warning signs of climate change is critical to finding the next course of action. As my home state, Missouri is full of surprising turns in the weather and locals often note the extreme changes throughout the day.
Missouri heat indexes have been indicating an increase in temperature averages annually. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) predicts that "by the end of the century, temperatures in Missouri could be a lot like they are in Arizona right now — with between 46 and 115 days above 95 degrees per year" (WASHINGTON POST).
From 1970 to 2016, the average temperature of Missouri has increased over 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Coincidentally, all the coral ecosystems of the world are expected to completely die out if such a change occurred in their habitats (CLIMATE REALITY PROJECT).
According to the States At Risk Organization (SAR), more than 170,000 people in Missouri are especially vulnerable to extreme heat. EPA statistical data show that 1,300 deaths per year in the United States are due to extreme heat.
On average, city temperatures are 4 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than rural areas which make city residents of Missouri especially vulnerable to heat-related hospital visits or death (EPA).
With Missouri’s increasing temperatures, issues of poor air quality come into play as well. Higher temperatures lead to the growth of indoor fungi and mold while in the outdoors ground-level o-zone and particulate matter build up. These processes lead to a more muggy and humid atmosphere which every Missourian is familiar with. Lakes are expected to experience more toxic algae blooms which kill amphibians and fish which are food for other animals such as birds and mammals.
The average Missouri temperatures of extreme and dangerous proportions about 15 days a year. The EPA estimates that by 2050, the state is projected to have over 60 days on average annually. With increased mugginess and humidity, mosquito season lasts longer and makes us more vulnerable to diseases that they carry.
Mosquito season used to last around 100 days a year, but now lasts up to 131. Missouri has recently confirmed instances of the West Nile Virus in local mosquitos. Fevers, headaches, stiff neck, confusion, coma, seizures, and partial paralysis are all symptoms of concern with the disease. Missouri mosquitoes can also be carriers of the filarial worm Dirofilaria immitis, a worm that causes canine heartworm. Thankfully, our precious pups can get medication for preventive measures, but many dog owners opt out of premature treatment in order to save money.
MO Flooding and Drought
Missouri is a fascinating location because of its rivers and atmospheric conditions. The Missouri rivers get much of its water from the snow of the northwest. According to SAR, more than 220,000 Missouri residents are living in areas at elevated risk of inland flooding. Most recently, in the springtime, heavy rainfall and snow melts have caused the Mississippi river and Missouri river to flood millions of acres of farmland. With roads destroyed and cities floods, billions of dollars have been poured into dams, the elevation of roads, and cities nationwide.
Contrasting the floods in the summer droughts, such as the drought of 2012 which cost Missouri over $275 million dollars to navigate channels through the Mississippi river. Crop yields rely on the rainfall, but when Missouri is experiencing increased temperatures with little rain during prime crop seasons, soy and corn farmers have a hard time irrigating which impacts the entire economy. Maize yields are expected to decrease.
According to Accuweather, tornadoes are “fueled by a volatile mixture of warm, moist air, cold air and dry air masses” (ACCUWEATHER). In tornado alley, the cold, dry air mass from the south collides and tucks underneath the warm, moist air mass of the north to create the swirling vortexes of death that we experience each year.
With global temperatures increasing, there’s scientific speculation as to whether Missouri will see more tornadoes or if the tornadoes will shift more north rather than their traditional areas (Dr. Zellers, UCM). Global warming decreases wind shear (wind speed) and increases greenhouse gases. Missouri may experience fewer tornadoes, but as a consequence will have increased CO2 levels. Conversely, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) statistics recorded increased trends in tornadoes from 1950 to 2010 due to the increased temperatures (NOAA).
What Can You Do?
First, learn about climate change in your region by following any of the helpful links provided. We can all make a difference to preserve our environment and prevent increasing temperatures. Finding eco-friendly movements, organizations, or groups in your community can go a long way to start the conversation of protecting Missouri’s environment. Using your voice to contact your local officials and politicians builds awareness of the issues and create the opportunity for change.
At home, we can develop habits that save money and help the earth. LED light-bulbs are cost-effective, efficient and save money on your electricity bill. Unplugging unused devices such as a fan or a blender wastes less energy too. Be sure to reduce waste which could include buying less food at a time to be thrown away later, composting, or growing your own garden. Rather than driving everywhere you go, you can carpool, use public transportation, bike, or walk. Little changes in our everyday lives lead to big changes in Missouri. At the end of the day, by protecting our planet, we’re protecting our future and building a safe environment for generations to come.
Dr. Sally Zellers, Professor of Geological Sciences , UCM
Dr. James Loch, Professor of Earth Sciences, UCM
Lecture Notes: Dr. Kurtis Dean and Dr. James Loch, Evolution, Fall 2018
Lecture Notes: Dr. Kurtis Dean, Conservation Biology, Fall 2018
Lecture Notes: Dr. Li Liu, Conservation of Natural Resources, Fall 2015
Lecture Notes: Dr. Stephen Wilson, General Ecology, Spring 2015
Lecture Notes: Dr. Daryl Goad, Principles of Biology, Fall 2014
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Forhetz, Sara. "West Nile Virus Shows Up In MO." KY3 The Place To Be, KY3, 17 Aug. 2019, www.ky3.com/content/news/Health-officials-find-West-Nile-virus-in-Mo-549365231.html.
Holthaus, Eric. "Terrifying Map Shows All The Parts Of America That Might Soon Flood." Grist Organization, Grist, 22 Mar. 2019, grist.org/article/terrifying-map-shows-all-the-parts-of-america-that-might-soon-flood/.
Irfan, Umair. "A Major New Climate Report Slams The Door On Wishful Thinking." Vox, Vox, 7 Oct. 2018, www.vox.com/2018/10/5/17934174/climate-change-global-warming-un-ipcc-report-1-5-degrees.
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