This story is part of When it Rains, a special series from the Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk. The Desk is an independent reporting network based at the University of Missouri, in partnership with Report For America and the Society of Environmental Journalists, funded by the Walton Family Foundation. Investigate Midwest is a member of the network.

After floods hammered St. Louis and eastern Kentucky this summer, the Ag & Water Desk wanted to know: Is rainfall increasing in the Mississippi River basin? Desk editor Tegan Wendland worked with the nonprofit research group Climate Central to produce new data analyses on this question. We found that average annual rainfall has increased by upwards of 8 inches in the past 50 years in much of the region while also falling in heavier bouts, causing repeated flooding and raising many questions about how we live in a wetter world. 

Editors and reporters across 14 of the Desk’s partner news outlets, including Investigate Midwest, then talked with experts, regulators, advocates and residents about how this change is affecting the region and what people are doing about it. Reporters went in the field in eight states. The Desk also worked with journalism students at the University of Missouri School of Journalism to get community input through an online survey, which further shaped the series. 

Each story was co-written by at least two reporters and went through multiple reviews by editors and fact-checkers from the Desk and several other news outlets. We used publicly available datasets to create graphics, took our own photos and collected archival images from public sources. Finally, like all of the Ag & Water Desk’s work, the series was released in early October for any news outlet to edit, repurpose and run for free.

We welcome your input on this series and any other questions at Learn more about the Desk, see past stories and sign up for our newsletter at

When It Rains was reported by Connor Giffin (The Courier-Journal), Keely Brewer (Daily Memphian), Erin Jordan and Brittney J. Miller (The Gazette), Eva Tesfaye (Harvest Public Media), Sarah Bowman (Indianapolis Star), Joshua Rosenberg (The Lens), Madeline Heim (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), Bryce Gray (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), Chloe Johnson (Star Tribune), Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco (WNIJ-Northern Public Radio) and Halle Parker (WWNO-New Orleans Public Radio). 

The lead editors were Tegan Wendland (Ag & Water Desk) and Georgina Gustin (Inside Climate News). Additional editing by Sara Shipley Hiles and Annie Ropeik (Ag & Water Desk), Maria Altman (Harvest Public Media), Sky Chadde (Investigate Midwest), Sarah Gassen (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), James Shiffer (Star Tribune) and Jim Malewitz (Wisconsin Watch), with special thanks to Jen Brady (Climate Central), Chris Clayton (DTN/The Progressive Farmer) and Mark Schleifstein (The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate). 

Data visualization by Teghan Simonton (University of Missouri School of Journalism) with help from Chase Davis (Star Tribune). Audience engagement by Adam Goldstein, Mikayla Higgins, Reade Snelling and Shirin Rekabdar-Xavier (University of Missouri School of Journalism).

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