What Climate Change Means for Mississippi Page: 2 of 2
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Whether or not storms become more intense, coastal
homes and infrastructure will flood more often as sea level
rises, because storm surges will become higher as well.
Rising sea level is likely to increase flood insurance rates,
while more frequent storms could increase the deductible
for wind damage in homeowner insurance policies. Many
cities, roads, railways, ports, airports, and oil and gas
facilities along the Gulf Coast are vulnerable to the
combined impacts of storms and sea level rise. People may
move from vulnerable coastal communities and stress the
infrastructure of the communities that receive them.
Flooding and River Transportation
Changing the climate is also likely to increase inland
flooding. Vicksburg and Natchez are vulnerable to high
water levels on the Mississippi River. Since 1958, the
amount of precipitation during heavy rainstorms has
increased by 27 percent in the Southeast, and the trend
toward increasingly heavy rainstorms is likely to continue.
Moreover, streamflows in the Midwest are increasing,
and the amount of rainfall there is also likely to increase,
which could increase flooding in Mississippi, because
most of the Midwest drains into the Mississippi River.
Droughts create a different set of challenges. During severe
droughts in the Mississippi River's watershed, low flows
can restrict commercial navigation. For example, low water
in 2012 forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reduce
allowable barge sizes on the Mississippi River and close
the river at Greenville for more than a week, which delayed
approximately 100 barges.
The Mississippi River flooded parts of Vicksburg in May 2011,
including the old railroad depot shown here. Credit: Patrick Moes,
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Changing the climate will have both harmful and beneficial
effects on farming. Seventy years from now, Mississippi is
likely to have 30 to 60 days per year with temperatures above
95 F, compared with about 15 days today. Even during the
next few decades, hotter summers are likely to reduce yields
of corn. But higher concentrations of atmospheric carbon
dioxide increase crop yields, and that fertilizing effect is likely
to offset the harmful effects of heat on soybeans, cotton,
wheat, and peanuts-if enough water is available. More
severe droughts, however, could cause crop failures. Higher
temperatures are also likely to reduce livestock productivity,
because heat stress disrupts the animals' metabolism.
Higher temperatures and changes in rainfall are unlikely to
substantially reduce forest cover in Mississippi, although the
composition of trees in the forests may change. More
droughts would reduce forest productivity, and climate
change is also likely to increase the damage from insects
and disease. But longer growing seasons and higher carbon
dioxide concentrations could more than offset the losses
from those factors. Forests cover almost two-thirds of the
state. Oak, hickory, and white pine trees are most common
in the northern part of the state, except along the Mississippi
River delta. In the southern part of the state, loblolly and
longleaf pines are most common. As the climate warms,
forests in southern Mississippi are likely to have more oaks
and white pines, and fewer loblolly and longleaf pines.
Hot days can be unhealthy-even dangerous. Certain people
are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly,
the sick, and the poor. High air temperatures can cause
heat stroke and dehydration and affect people's cardio-
vascular and nervous systems. Warmer air can also increase
the formation of ground-level ozone, a key component of
smog. Ozone has a variety of health effects, aggravates lung
diseases such as asthma, and increases the risk of
premature death from heart or lung disease. EPA and the
Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality have been
working to reduce ozone concentrations. As the climate
changes, continued progress toward clean air will become
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United States. Environmental Protection Agency. What Climate Change Means for Mississippi, pamphlet, August 2016; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc949173/m1/2/: accessed February 15, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.