In the latest Data Dive, we take a look at the risks facing the United States as climate change worsens and which states could see the most danger. gathered climate data from research group Climate Central to develop the Climate Change Risk Index, which weighs five central effects of climate change — extreme heat, drought, wildfires, coastal flooding and inland flooding — by their likelihood of worsening by state. Higher numbers represent higher risks.

View the data:

Southern states as a region are currently facing the highest likelihood of increasing side-effects of climate change, with Mississippi being one of the top five most at-risk. The average Risk Index of each region of the country is:

  • Northeast — 123
  • Midwest — 147
  • West — 166
  • South — 229

These numbers represent the average Climate Change Risk Index of the states in a region, meaning, for example, that a Southern state typically has a score of around 229, higher than the national average of 174.

According to's data, Mississippi has the highest percentage of its population vulnerable to extreme heat at 4%, and the state could see an increase of dangerously hot days as high as 111 days of the year. And between 2000-2050, Mississippi could also see a 140% increase in summer droughts and a 21-day increase in the number of days with high wildfire potential. Fifty-seven percent of the state's population is at an elevated risk of wildfire.

Floods and droughts are reaching record severity across the country, signaling a future in which the effects of climate change continue to expose glaring infrastructure issues at the cost of the citizens most directly affected by disaster.

READ MORE: ‘The wall people are running into’: For JSU student, city water crisis highlights limitation of government

Jackson's water crisis recently culminated in a city-wide system failure that left thousands with little to no running water, exacerbating an already-present boil water notice that is still currently in effect. After a week of what the Federal Emergency Management Agency officially declared a disaster on August 30, water was eventually restored to all Jackson residents.

The root cause of the water crisis is the result of years of administrative issues, financial issues, maintenance issues and more, but the most immediate problem that created the recent water system failure was the flooding of the Pearl River by heavy rainfall.

Mississippi is also at risk of elevated coastal flooding, with 2.5% of the population affected. Although one of the ten highest percentages, other Southern states like Florida and Louisiana have at-risk population percentages of 16.7% and 20.4%, respectively.

Flooding exacerbates Jackson’s water crisis, raises calls for state intervention
Jackson water system is failing, city will be with no or little drinking water indefinitely

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Nigel Dent, a native of Natchez, is Mississippi Today’s audience journalist. He works as a member of the audience team to engage with readers, create audience-centered resources and distribute Mississippi Today’s news across various digital platforms, including social media and newsletter products.