How climate change has affected each state

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August 27, 2020
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How climate change has affected each state

The 2019 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report takes an in-depth look at how climate change is affecting our land—and how land use impacts the climate. On the whole, the news is not positive. The report detailed the negative effects that climate change is having around the world in the form of increasing heat waves, droughts, desertification, and food insecurity.

"New knowledge shows an increase in risks from dryland water scarcity, fire damage, permafrost degradation, and food system instability, even for global warming of around 1.5 degrees Celsius," said Valérie Masson-Delmotte, co-chair of IPCC Working Group I.

A target of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming is optimistic. In the Paris Climate Accords, which the United States backed out of under President Donald Trump, the goal was to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius; globally, we are not even on track to do that.

The increased risks that Masson-Delmotte mentions are already visible in the United States. There are more fires across the West, food system instability across the Midwest, increased water scarcity in the Southwest, and a growing rate of extreme weather events taking place all over.

One of the biggest challenges when looking at the impacts of climate change is that it is often not possible to directly connect it to a specific hurricane, flood, drought, or fire. But while several elements go into a specific weather event, we are undoubtedly living through an unprecedented number of "1,000-year storms," extreme heat waves, and droughts.

Stacker compiled a gallery of 50 ways climate change is altering our 50 states by studying state and federal reports, peer-reviewed research papers, and trusted news articles. Of course, each state is experiencing many impacts of climate change, and often all at once. It's not all terrible news, however: Many of these states are also fighting back against the negative impacts of climate change through actions such as improved agricultural practices, greener buildings, and pledging to rely 100% on clean energy.

You may also like: Dramatic satellite observations that show the true scale of Arctic change

Alabama: $1 billion in storm damage

Alabama experienced severe storms and tornadoes at the end of March 2020, along with other states across the Southeast. Since 2009, Alabama has experienced 20 storms that caused more than $1 billion in damages in total. In response, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Coastal Comprehensive Plan plans to identify the areas most vulnerable to sea level change and coastal storms.

Alaska: 2.4 million acres consumed in wildfires

Increased wildfires caused by climate change consumed at least 2.5 million acres in Alaska in the summer of 2019 alone. These fires could alter the composition of Alaska's forests, according to a paper published on Aug. 26, 2019, in Nature Plants. In order to better understand and mitigate the effects of wildfires in Alaska, the U.S. Geological Survey has developed models to quantify how fires are expected to change local ecosystems.

Arizona: Average temperature has risen 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit

Arizona is the third fastest-warming state in the U.S., according to an April 2019 report from Climate Central. During the last half-century, Arizona's average temperature has risen 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit. The state is trying to combat this change in temperature by creating more shade and using new building materials that do not trap as much heat.

Arkansas: Winter tornadoes becoming more common

According to an April 2019 report by the American Meteorological Society, Arkansas' average temperature has risen by 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970, and winter tornadoes are becoming more common. To lessen the impacts of climate change, Fayetteville has pledged to move to 100% clean energy by 2050.

California: Deadly wildfires

Four of California's 20 biggest wildfires (since 1932) have occurred after December 2017. The Forest Service at the Tahoe National Forest is pursuing a new strategy that clears chunks of forests in a pattern that encourages wildfires to follow a zigzag path which forces the blaze to move against the wind at least half the time.

Colorado: More spruce beetle outbreaks

A May 2019 study from Colorado State University found spruce beetle outbreaks could become more frequent in the Rocky Mountains if climate projections hold. Spruce beetles kill trees, and researchers say that even an increase of just 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit could extend the beetles' flight season from weeks to months.

Connecticut: Coast warming four times faster than world's oceans

The Connecticut coastline is warming four times faster than the rest of the world's oceans. This is taking a heavy toll on fishing in the state, with flounder and lobster populations diminishing because of the change in water temperatures. To help fisheries, Connecticut's Department of Energy & Environmental Protection is looking to acquire and protect critical cold water and wetland habitats.

Delaware: Increased flooding danger

Within the next half-century, nearly 7,000 Delaware residents could be affected by flooding and sea-level rise due to climate change, according to a 2018 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. In fact, only small portions of the northern and western parts of the state are expected to be safe. In response, the state is looking at legislation to help adapt its roads to future flooding.

Florida: 365 days of flooding per year in Miami by 2070

A 2018 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that between 2000 and 2015, high tide floods increased from once to three times a year along the Southeast Atlantic Coast. The report predicts that by 2070, the streets of Miami could be flooded every day. Despite these alarming projections, developers continue to build in the area.

Georgia: Increase of heat-related deaths

According to the U.S. National Climate Assessment, southeastern states like Georgia are facing extreme temperatures because of the climate crisis. A 2017 Brown University study showed that under the worst climate projections, heat-related deaths will increase in Atlanta, and that poorer communities will be on the front lines. In response, the Center for Sustainable Communities in Atlanta sends out teams of students to lower-income areas to share information on making their communities more climate resilient.

Hawaii: Waikiki Beach in danger of going underwater

Oahu's famous Waikiki Beach is in danger of being underwater within the next two decades, according to a 2017 report from the Hawaii Climate Commission. The beach is a major tourist attraction, and the state would lose $2 billion in annual tourism revenue without it. In response, the state's Senate and House of Representatives have passed a measure that would address the threat of sea-level rise.

Idaho: 110% increase in droughts by 2050

Idaho is projected to see a 110% increase in droughts by 2050 due to climate change. This will heavily impact the production of potatoes for which Idaho is famous. The state has been late to acknowledge climate change as a problem, but after two decades of ignoring it, lawmakers have finally agreed that there is a need for more data.

Illinois: Average spring temperatures increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit

In Illinois, the average annual temperature has increased by about 1 degree Fahrenheit since the beginning of the 20th century, with average spring temperatures increasing by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information State Climate Report, published in 2017. The state's governor signed an executive order this past January to join the United States Climate Alliance to help reduce Illinois' impact on global emissions.

Indiana: More days with temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit each year

Increasingly hot summers are likely to reduce corn and soybean yields in Indiana. In 70 years, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that much of Indiana will have between five and 15 more days with temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit each year. To deal with these impacts on agriculture, farmers will have to adjust by planting different varieties of corn and investing in improved ventilation and cooling pads for livestock.

Iowa: Increase of soil erosion and nutrient runoff

The Fourth National Climate Assessment reports that Iowa and the rest of the Midwest will experience heavier spring rains in the future, which will increase the soil erosion and nutrient runoff that threaten Iowa's drinking water. Iowa farmers have been responding to this increase in erosion for years by adding terraces on hills to slow and hold water.

Kansas: Increase of armadillos

Even subtle changes to average temperatures make climates more hospitable to certain species and less to others. These changes can reduce biodiversity in various parts of the world. In Kansas, a warming climate has meant an influx of an unlikely mammal: the armadillo.

Armadillos are adept diggers who find their food in the ground. They cannot live in places inhospitable to digging, such as areas in the north that experience prolonged freezing temperatures, because they don't hibernate and can't go more than two weeks without eating. As average temperatures rise in Kansas, there has been a reduction in consecutive days below freezing, allowing armadillos to travel further north than ever before (there have even been armadillo sightings in Nebraska and Illinois).

Biologists from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism have spent decades tracking roadkill to monitor the populations of raccoons and beavers. But in 1986, they started tracking armadillos, too; with marked increases of that population recorded since the early 2000s. Sightings of armadillos in Kansas go back to the 1940s, to be sure, but were counted as anomalies. Their migration to Kansas is considered natural by biologists, meaning their arrival and the growing population there doesn't brand armadillos as invasive species. It's too soon to tell how the influx of armadillos will affect other species throughout Kansas and other northern states.

Climate change in Kansas is also affecting what crops get grown: Farmers have been handling less available water by experimenting with crops like cotton.

Kentucky: Increase in insect and disease damage to forests

Higher temperatures and changes in precipitation due to climate change are likely to increase the damage that insects and diseases cause to Kentucky's forests. The University of Kentucky has already found a pest species in the state that was only formerly seen further south in states around the Gulf of Mexico.

Louisiana: Most flood-prone state

Louisiana is the most flood-prone state in the United States, and will likely continue to be heavily impacted by floods due to rising sea levels caused by climate change. This has led the state to develop the LA SAFE program, which addresses climate migration, ensures escape routes during floods, protects coastal communities and diversifies the economy.

Maine: Gulf of Maine has warmed by 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit

Since 1982, temperatures in the Gulf of Maine have warmed by an average of 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit, and the summer of 2018 saw the highest surface water temperatures ever, according to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. There is a concern that this could lead to an increase in lobster shell disease, which has already led to a collapse in lobster catches in southern New England states.

Maryland: Shorter winters and more pests

A 2019 study by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science predicts that in 60 years, Maryland will be hotter and wetter and have far more mosquitoes, looking more like a state a thousand miles south of its actual location. The cause, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, is that Maryland will experience shorter winters, rising water and more pests because of climate change.

Massachusetts: Increase in number high-tide flooding days

In 2018, Boston experienced 19 days of high-tide flooding, the highest number of days overall in the Northeast Atlantic. Climate Ready Boston, a city-run initiative, is responding by developing a comprehensive plan to protect the city's infrastructure and its people from increased storms and rising waters.

Michigan: Lake Superior heating up

Michigan's Lake Superior, the coldest of the Great Lakes, is heating up by an average of 2 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, making it one of the world's fastest-warming lakes. This will probably make the lake more hospitable to invasive species, and scientists already believe that recent cyanobacterial blooms on the lake are tied, at least in part, to these warmer temperatures.

Minnesota: Voyageurs National Park will get hotter

Temperatures are projected to rise by 15 degrees Fahrenheit in Minnesota's Voyageurs National Park by 2100, according to data from Climate Central. While this could actually make the park more hospitable to many bird species, the state's iconic common loon may find the climate there less suitable; other species, such as red-breasted mergansers, hairy woodpeckers, and gray jays may be driven out altogether.

Mississippi: Increase in flooding

Mississippi has 75,000 residents at risk of coastal flooding, and this number is projected to go up to nearly 90,000 by 2050. The state currently has roughly 200 square miles in the 100-year coastal floodplain, and by 2050, this is projected to increase by 50% to 300 square miles due to sea-level rise caused by climate change.

Missouri: More mosquitoes and West Nile Virus

An increase in the cycles of floods and droughts because of climate change in the Midwest could lead to an increase in West Nile Virus in the area, including in Missouri. Since the 1980s, the mosquito season in Missouri has grown by 18 days. The National Association of County and City Health Officials released survey data from U.S. health departments in 2017 and found that almost no local health departments in Missouri met the basic requirements for testing mosquito types or managing their populations.

Montana: Declines in revenue for outdoor recreation

The outdoor recreation industry in Montana could suffer heavily due to climate change. According to the Northern Great Plains chapter of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, a decrease of snowfall in western Montana could shrink the winter sports season by 20 to 90% by 2090. In addition, warming water could reduce the value of cold-water fishing by $25 to $66 million by the end of the century.

Nebraska: Longer and more severe allergy seasons

Increasing temperatures due to climate change may increase the length and severity of the pollen season for allergy sufferers in Nebraska. In Omaha, for example, the ragweed season has grown 10 days longer than it was in 1995 because the first frost in the fall comes later.

Nevada: Loss of snowpack

Nevada has seen a decline in snowpack since the 1950s because of climate change's warming temperatures. The loss has led to decreased precipitation falling as snow and more snow melting in the winter. This could threaten certain species as the tree line climbs to higher altitudes, encroaching on mountaintop habitats.

New Hampshire: Longer tick seasons

Warmer winters in New Hampshire could lead to an increase in tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease. The ticks that spread Lyme are active when temperatures are above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, so warmer winters will lengthen the season in which people could be exposed to infected ticks.

New Jersey: Warming twice as fast as the national average

New Jersey is one of the fastest-warming states in the nation, warming twice as fast as the average for the lower 48 states. The state's largest lake, Lake Hopatcong, had to be closed for swimming or fishing after the detection of a toxic bacteria that was caused, in part, by one of the century's warmest springs.

New Mexico: More vulnerable to pests

Warmer and drier conditions due to climate change have made New Mexico's forests more vulnerable to pests, such as bark beetles, which have infested 200,000 acres in the state. Many of these pests die off in the cold temperatures of winter, and as winters grow milder, more of these pests can exist year-round without seasonal population loss.

New York: Risk of extreme heat-related deaths in New York City

New York City is projected to face rising annual temperatures of up to 5.5 degrees Fahrenheit. This presents a special risk for people living in old buildings that were constructed with heat-trapping materials. To minimize the number of heat-related deaths in the city, the New York City Council passed the Climate Mobilization Act, which includes a new law requiring real estate owners to comply with stricter emissions standards.

North Carolina: More extreme precipitation events

Climate change is increasing the magnitude precipitation events like hurricanes, tropical storms, and floods, in North Carolina, according to a study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Using storm data dating back to 1898, the study found that six of the seven highest precipitation events recorded have occurred within the last two decades.

North Dakota: Increase in heavy rainstorms

Climate change is causing an increase in heavy storms in North Dakota. Over the last half century, the amount of precipitation during the four wettest days of the year has increased by roughly 15% in the Great Plains area, including North Dakota. In the coming decades, heavy downpours are likely to account for a larger percentage of precipitation in the state.

Ohio: Increased precipitation threatens agriculture

Increased annual precipitation and flooding in Ohio because of climate change are threatening agriculture in the state. Over the last 50 years, precipitation in the Midwest had increased by 5% to 10%, and rainfall during the four wettest days of the year has increased by around 35%. In 2019, the wettest on record for the U.S., all this rain led to heavy crop losses for Ohio's corn and soybean farmers.

Oklahoma: Not enough water

Rising temperatures will lead to more drought as rainfall decreases and evaporation increases. Farmers in Oklahoma need water to irrigate their crops, as 16% of the state's farmland is irrigated, but the High Plains Aquifer System is becoming depleted. Since the 1950s, there has been a 25% drop in the amount of water stored in the aquifer in parts of the Panhandle area.

Oregon: Ocean acidification will impact fishing

Acidification of Oregon's waters, because of rising temperatures, will change the marine ecosystem and increase losses of commercially and recreationally important fish. To better understand what this might look like in the future, scientists from Oregon State University have been taking measurements of the ocean temperature, current, and zooplankton levels for the past two decades. The data help researchers understand how climate change will affect fishing season and marine food.

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia in danger of flooding

Pennsylvania's shoreline is experiencing rising sea levels because the Delaware Valley is sinking. As a result, the Philadelphia International Airport, as well as areas to its north and parts of downtown Philadelphia, are in danger of flooding. Communities need to take measures to hold back rising rivers to mitigate flooding damage.

Rhode Island: First state in lower 48 with average temperature rise of over 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit

Rhode Island is the first state of the lower 48 with an average temperature rise of over 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The water temperature of the state's Narragansett Bay has gone up by nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit in the last half a century, leading its lobster catch to plummet by 75% in the last 20 years.

South Carolina: Increase in shore erosion

As sea level rises due to climate change, it becomes more likely that storm waves will cover a barrier island or open new inlets. In addition, as these rising sea levels erode shores, coastal homes in South Carolina will become threatened unless residents take measures to prevent shore erosion.

South Dakota: Higher temperatures increase drought risk

South Dakota's annual average temperature has increased by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the beginning of the 20th century. Two of South Dakota's 10 warmest years have taken place since 1980, and four since 2005. This is likely to lead to increased droughts and risks to human health.

Tennessee: Increased risk of Zika virus

As average temperatures in Tennessee rise due to climate change, its mosquito season will get longer as well, leading to an increased risk of the Zika virus in the state. Between 1980 and 1989, Nashville's average mosquito season was 111 days long. Since 2006, that number has gone up to 122 days per year.

Texas: Texas-sized heat

A 2019 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists said that climate change is expected to sharply increase deadly heat in Texas. By the end of the century, Dallas, for example, could see an average of 18 days per year where heat index values climb so high that they cannot even be calculated. According to the report, those conditions could pose extreme health risks.

Utah: Air Force base threatened by climate change

The Pentagon in January 2019 named Utah's Hill Air Force Base as the U.S. military installation most threatened by the impacts of climate change such as desertification, flooding, droughts, and wildfires. The threats that put the Air Force base at risk are also making the rest of the state of Utah vulnerable to climate crisis.

Vermont: More precipitation and flooding

Vermont is getting wetter, thanks to climate change. Average annual precipitation in the form of rain and snow has increased by 1.5 inches per decade since 1960. Four of the five years with the highest precipitation since 1960 took place after 1995, and precipitation rates have increased by roughly seven-tenths of an inch each decade since 1895. This upward trend has led to an increase in flooding in the state.

Virginia: Big costs to coastal cities

Virginia has 10,000 miles of shoreline, so rising sea levels have large impacts on both coastal communities and the military in the state. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science Sea Level Report Card estimated that sea levels could rise by an additional 18 inches by 2050, which could be devastating for coastal cities. The annual estimate for Virginia Beach alone to respond to flooding damage would be $77 million.

Washington: Salmon and other marine life in danger

According to the Fourth National Climate Assessment by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, if current emission levels remain the same or continue to rise, Washington's salmon are estimated to lose roughly 22% of their habitat by the end of the century due to warming stream waters. Already, because of rising temperatures and harmful algae, there have been closures of salmon, shellfish, and crab fisheries all along the coast.

West Virginia: More severe flooding

West Virginia is one of the most flash-flood prone states in the country. The state has experienced an increase in precipitation of 2.2% throughout the last century, and further increases in expected rainfall could cause more extreme flooding, which is likely to destroy infrastructure in the state.

Wisconsin: Lake Michigan is heating up

Lake Michigan, partially located in Wisconsin, is warming. This increase in temperature will likely harm the lake's water quality, as warmer water has more algal blooms. This can harm species of fish as well. The lakes are likely to warm another 3 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 70 years.

Wyoming: Yellowstone National Park will get much hotter

Summers in Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park are projected to be 13 degrees Fahrenheit hotter by the year 2100. The park's average annual temperature has already gone up by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the last century. This warming will likely have big impacts on the plants and animals that live in the park, but since the current changes are occurring faster than any climatic changes in recent history, scientists don't have a model to predict what the park will look like within the next century.

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