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Fastest-warming states in the U.S.

  • Fastest-warming states in the U.S.

    A little less than 2 degrees might not seem like much, but for the health of the world’s ecosystem, it’s quite a lot. According to Climate Central, global temperatures have risen a little more than 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895—most of that since the first Earth Day in 1970—and the impact is already being felt all over the globe. Climate change is impacting every U.S. state, whether it takes the form of rising seas, extreme storms, wildfires, or devastating droughts. But some states are warming faster than others and feeling the other impacts of climate change more keenly. To get a sense of how global warming is impacting U.S. states’ average temperatures, Stacker ranked 49 U.S. states from slowest to fastest warming.

    To determine the fastest-warming states in America, Stacker consulted Climate Central’s American Warming report, released on Earth Day 2019. Climate Central is a nonprofit news organization that compiles research and helps other news outlets report on climate change. In this report, researchers ranked 49 states and 242 metro areas according to their average warming between 1970 and 2018 with data derived from the National Centers for Environmental Information.

    All states (save Hawaii, for which data is not available) are ranked here according to their average warming, with the temperature changes of each state’s fastest-warming cities included for context. Ties are broken by the fastest-warming city in each state. Note that data is only available for one city in Nevada, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Utah, and Delaware; and data is only available for two cities in Wyoming, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey, and New Mexico.

    Read on to learn about the fastest-warming states in the U.S.

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  • #49. Iowa

    - Temperature change 1970-2018: 1.84° F
    - Fastest-warming metro areas:
    --- Des Moines (Temperature change: 2.75° F, #74 fastest-warming city)
    --- Waterloo (Temperature change: 2.65° F, #82 fastest-warming city)
    --- Dubuque (Temperature change: 1.66° F, #171 fastest-warming city)

    Although Iowa is ranked as #49 on the list of fastest-warming states, it is still being impacted daily by climate change. Iowa, a largely agricultural state, has seen droughts and floods that are impacting farmers’ crops, and Iowa Democrats have identified climate change as one of their top two issues as voters in repeated surveys.

  • #48. Georgia

    - Temperature change 1970-2018: 1.89° F
    - Fastest-warming metro areas:
    --- Atlanta (Temperature change: 3.12° F, #46 fastest-warming city)
    --- Albany (Temperature change: 2.23° F, #111 fastest-warming city)
    --- Augusta (Temperature change: 2.13° F, #126 fastest-warming city)

    Georgia is warming slowly, but it is still a vulnerable state due to its naturally warm climate; by 2050 it is expected to see over 90 dangerous heat days a year. Georgia is also experiencing other climate change impacts, such as flooding, wildfire, and drought.

  • #47. South Dakota

    - Temperature change 1970-2018: 1.90° F
    - Fastest-warming metro areas:
    --- Mitchell (Temperature change: 2.14° F, #121 fastest-warming city)
    --- Sioux Falls (Temperature change: 1.91° F, #148 fastest-warming city)
    --- Rapid City (Temperature change: 1.11° F, #210 fastest-warming city)

    South Dakota and the rest of the Northern Great Plains are experiencing changes in water supply because of flooding and drought as well as rising temperatures. Plains ecosystems are delicate, and even small changes can have ripple effects on the state’s wildlife, as well as on its agricultural economy.

  • #46. Missouri

    - Temperature change 1970-2018: 1.91° F
    - Fastest-warming metro areas:
    --- St. Louis (Temperature change: 3.85° F, #12 fastest-warming city)
    --- Columbia (Temperature change: 2.81° F, #70 fastest-warming city)
    --- Springfield (Temperature change: 1.88° F, #154 fastest-warming city)

    According to States at Risk, Missouri is experiencing more heat and humidity, especially in urban areas like St. Louis, due to urban heat island impacts and worse droughts than usual. It is also experiencing climate impacts in the winter, like heavier rains.

  • #45. North Dakota

    - Temperature change 1970-2018: 1.97° F
    - Fastest-warming metro areas:
    --- Fargo (Temperature change: 3.21° F, #42 fastest-warming city)
    --- Bismarck (Temperature change: 3.02° F, #53 fastest-warming city)
    --- Minot (Temperature change: 2.18° F, #118 fastest-warming city)

    Although North Dakota is not ranked particularly high on this list of fastest-warming states, it is experiencing climate change impacts like drought, heat, and increased environmental allergies, according to the EPA. As air gets warmer, it brings heavier rainstorms, and that has proved true in North Dakota: The EPA also found that heavy rainfall had increased by 15% in the Great Plains in the last 50 years.

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  • #44. Alabama

    - Temperature change 1970-2018: 1.97° F
    - Fastest-warming metro areas:
    --- Huntsville (Temperature change: 3.41° F, #29 fastest-warming city)
    --- Birmingham Area (Temperature change: 3.10° F, #48 fastest-warming city)
    --- Tuscaloosa (Temperature change: 2.25° F, #110 fastest-warming city)

    Alabama is heating up. As the climate continues to change, the state could end up with nearly three months a year where temperatures are above 95 degrees, according to the Sierra Club. Extreme heat is expected to take 760 additional lives annually in Alabama by 2050.

  • #43. Arkansas

    - Temperature change 1970-2018: 1.98° F
    - Fastest-warming metro areas:
    --- Ft. Smith (Temperature change: 3.92° F, #11 fastest-warming city)
    --- Little Rock (Temperature change: 2.18° F, #117 fastest-warming city)
    --- Fayetteville (Temperature change: 0.95° F, #214 fastest-warming city)

    Climate change is bringing longer and more frequent heat waves to the American southeast, and Arkansas is no exception. In fact, the state could experience 150 days per year with temperatures above 90 degrees, and increased precipitation and wildfires, according to the Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program.

  • #42. Washington

    - Temperature change 1970-2018: 1.99° F
    - Fastest-warming metro areas:
    --- Spokane (Temperature change: 2.44° F, #95 fastest-warming city)
    --- Yakima (Temperature change: 2.43° F, #96 fastest-warming city)
    --- Seattle-Tacoma (Temperature change: 1.91° F, #147 fastest-warming city)

    Washington is already feeling extreme impacts from climate change, including devastating wildfires, diminishing water supplies, and more. The coastal state is also highly at risk from sea level rise as the world warms.

  • #41. South Carolina

    - Temperature change 1970-2018: 2.03° F
    - Fastest-warming metro areas:
    --- Upstate SC (Temperature change: 2.87° F, #67 fastest-warming city)
    --- Columbia (Temperature change: 2.81° F, #70 fastest-warming city)
    --- Charleston (Temperature change: 2.19° F, #113 fastest-warming city)

    South Carolina’s summers are getting longer, hotter, and muggier. The impacts of this are especially being felt in cities like Columbia and Charleston, where buildings trap heat in urban heat islands. The increased heat is triggering high numbers of wildfires; 2.9 million people in South Carolina live in areas at elevated risk for wildfires.

  • #40. Mississippi

    - Temperature change 1970-2018: 2.03° F
    - Fastest-warming metro areas:
    --- Shreveport (Temperature change: 2.95° F, #60 fastest-warming city)
    --- Tupelo (Temperature change: 2.50° F, #90 fastest-warming city)
    --- Jackson (Temperature change: 1.69° F, #169 fastest-warming city)

    Mississippi is feeling the impacts of climate change through drier soil and more frequent flooding, both coastal and inland. Mississippi has not warmed at nearly the rate of many other places because of the prevalence of pollution, like sulfates in the atmosphere over the state, but with sulfate emissions in decline, Mississippians are subject to even stronger climate change effects.

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