Too much rain: How climate change has affected Kentucky

Published 12:50 pm Thursday, November 11, 2021

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Too much rain: How climate change has affected Kentucky

The latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is yet another reminder of the dire effects of climate change. While climate projections often look to the future when discussing the worst impacts of climate change, we are in fact already experiencing its effects across the United States. To better understand how climate change is impacting the country, Stacker compiled a list of the impacts of climate change in every state, using local and national news stories, government reports, and scientific journal articles.

While these impacts are weather-related—for example, heat waves, droughts, or storms—individual weather events cannot be attributed to climate change on their own. Rather, it is when these events are seen within larger trends that they can be understood as part of a pattern that has come out of the changing climate.

Keep reading to learn about how your state has been impacted by climate change, or read the national story here.

Kentucky: Too much rain

Kentucky has seen three of its five wettest years on record in the past decade, and the summer of 2020 had the most rain of any two-month period on record. This rain often comes in destructive downpours, causing severe flooding. In 2020, Louisville, Kentucky, experienced such extreme flooding that it swamped neighborhoods and hurt businesses.

Across the country, there are trends of rising temperatures, storms of increasing frequency and severity, and more erratic precipitation patterns, causing disruptions to the food systems and sometimes even resulting in death. While the U.S. government has set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030, it is clear that the climate emergency is already taking place, and along with emissions reductions, mitigation of the impacts of climate change must be prioritized as well.

Read below to see how other states in your region have been affected by climate change.

West Virginia: Increased rainfall and flooding

Climate change is contributing to increased rainfall in West Virginia. The state is one of the most prone to flash floods due to the geography of the Appalachian Mountains, which channel water very quickly downstream to larger rivers. West Virginia is the United States’ second-largest producer of coal, the more carbon-intensive source of fuel, and sources 94% of its own electricity from coal-fired plants.

Illinois: Worsening air quality

In the summer of 2020, Chicago experienced its longest streak of high-pollution air days in more than 10 years. Continually dirty air is one consequence of climate change because warmer temperatures mean more ozone production and the trapping of smog and soot. “While emissions in some ways may be decreasing somewhat, the tendency of the changing climate is to produce more days where air quality can be an issue,” Donald Wuebbles, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune.