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Climate Change Driving ‘Unprecedented’ Warming And Precipitation In Missouri

Climate Change Driving ‘Unprecedented’ Warming And Precipitation In Missouri

The planet is warming at a dangerously fast rate, according to a landmark report from the United Nations released this month.

Climate change will intensify in the coming decades, bringing higher temperatures, more extreme weather and more wildfires to the U.S. — a dramatic reshaping of our environment undoubtedly driven by human activity, the report finds.

Still, not every region of the country will be affected in the same way.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Shahla Farzan spoke with Pat Guinan, Missouri’s state climatologist and associate professor of climatology at the University of Missouri Extension, about changes that Missouri residents can expect to see in the coming years.

Shahla Farzan: How is climate change affecting Missouri?

Pat Guinan: Since about the late 1990s, we have been in an unprecedented warming trend. There were warm periods in the 1930s and the 1950s. But since 1998, we've only had five years that actually were cooler than average. So nearly 80% of the years since 1998 have averaged above normal.

When you break it down into seasons, most of this warming has been occurring in our winters and our springs. But it's important to note that when you break up temperature, you have to look at maximum and minimum temperatures as well. Minimum temperature, that's where we've seen our strongest warming. All four seasons, we're seeing that upward trend of warmer minimum temperatures. It's these minimum temperatures that we're seeing some really unusual warming taking place in our changing climate.

Farzan: So temperatures have been getting warmer in Missouri. Have we also seen changes in precipitation?

Guinan: Here in Missouri, we've been in an unprecedented wet period since about the early 1970s. In fact, four out of our top five wettest years have occurred since 1973: 1973, 1993, 2008 and 2015.