Floodwater from the Mississippi River rises around a home on June 1 in West Alton, Missouri. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Unrelenting rains catapulted May to the second-wettest month on record in the U.S., leaving vast tracts of farmlands flooded across the nation's midsection, and jeopardizing this year's corn crop.

The big picture: The May precipitation total for the Lower 48 states was 4.41 inches, which was 1.5 inches above average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The past 12 months have been the wettest such period on record for the Lower 48 since such records began in 1895, with rains especially concentrated in the Midwest, Plains and Northeast.

  • Rainfall during this period was 37.68 inches, which was 7.73 inches above average for the period, the previous all-time 12-month record was 36.2 inches, set this April.

Context: A combination of heavy rainfall and spring snowmelt has led to record flooding along numerous rivers in the Midwest and Plains, rivaling or exceeding the great floods of the past century, including 1927 and 1993.

Hydroclimate extremes, including droughts and heavy precipitation events, as well as sharp whiplash-like swings between the two, are expected to become more common and severe as the climate continues to warm due to human activities.

  • Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri ranked the wettest May on record, NOAA found, while 7 other states ranked in their top 5 wettest for the month.
  • Already, a statistically robust uptick in heavy precipitation events has been observed in many of the Lower 48 states.
  • This is related to the fact that a warmer atmosphere with warmer oceans can carry more water vapor, which gets wrung out as heavy precipitation during storm events.
  • However, no climate attribution study has been conducted on the heavy rains in May or the past year, limiting how far scientists can go in tying these events to climate change.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Americans reflect on Independence Day amid racism reckoning

A Black Lives Matter banner and a United States flag on the facade of the U.S. embassy building in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Simon Shin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

America's leaders are rethinking how they view Independence Day, as the country reckons with the historic, unequal treatment of people of color during a pandemic which has disproportionately affected nonwhite Americans.

Why it matters: The country’s legacy of racism has come into sharp focus in the weeks of protests following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. From Confederate statues to Mount Rushmore, Americans are reexamining the symbols and traditions they elevate and the history behind them.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 11,031,905 — Total deaths: 523,777 — Total recoveries — 5,834,337Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 2,788,395 — Total deaths: 129,306 — Total recoveries: 790,404 — Total tested: 34,213,497Map.
  3. States: ICU beds in Arizona's hot spot reach near capacity.
  4. Public health: The states where face coverings are mandatory Fauci says it has been a "very disturbing week" for the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.
  5. Economy: The economy may recover just quickly enough to kill political interest in more stimulus.
12 hours ago - Sports

Washington Redskins to review team name amid public pressure

Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins have announced they will be conducting a review of the team's name after mounting pressure from the public and corporate sponsors.

Why it matters: This review is the first formal step the Redskins are taking since the debate surrounding the name first began. It comes after weeks of discussions between the team and the NFL, the team said.