A coastal city submerged under water is the typical depiction of a climate change worst-case scenario. However, a Weather Channel report ranks Kansas City 5th in the top 25 list of U.S. cities to be most impacted.

Why does Kansas City rank so high?

The Weather Channel Climate Disruption Index ranks Kansas City fifth of 25 cities to be most impacted by climate change. Specifically, it states:

  • “The city will see 20 more days above 90 degrees than its rural counterparts, according to Climate Central, plus more drought in the coming years.”
  • “Average annual temperatures have risen, accompanied by a number of major heat waves in the last few years,” the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in 2009, about the Midwest in general. “There have been fewer cold snaps, and ice and snow are melting sooner in the spring and arriving later in the fall. Heavy rains are occurring about twice as frequently as they did a century ago, increasing the risk of flooding.”

According to the report, the urban heat island effect will cause Kansas City to be warmer than the rural Midwest. Heat islands can develop because of buildings, roads and a lack of open land or vegetation. A 1999 report ranked the Kansas City metro area first with the most freeway lane miles per capita than any other large metropolitan area in the U.S., according to The Public Purpose journal.

Dennis Murphey, chief environmental officer for the city of Kansas City, MO, has reviewed the report and agrees that the heat island effect, drought and flooding are issues Kansas City faces now, and they will be more critical with increased extreme weather patterns. But he was still surprised that Kansas City ranked at greater risk than coastal cities like Miami.

“Despite the questions the report will raise, I’m glad to see The Weather Channel identifying that U.S. cities that will be significantly affected by climate change,” Murphey said. “I think a report like this puts the issue on the general public’s radar in a way that federal, state and local governments can’t.”

Energy, water, local food systems and public health will be the biggest issues that will stress the metro area as weather extremes increase, Murphey said. He noted that in the past few years more people have died of extreme heat than tornadoes.

What other cities made the Top 25?

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