February in Missouri was 9 degrees colder than normal and capped off a meteorological winter that could rank the ninth coldest on record, and the coldest in 35 years.
State climatologist Pat Guinan at the University of Missouri says December, January and February all had below normal temperatures and of them, February was the coldest. He says preliminary data indicates a state average temperatures of 25 degrees Farenheit. Temperatures in northern Missouri were 12 degrees Fahrenheit below normal and in southern Missouri temperatures were 9 degrees colder.
That would make February 2014 the coldest since 1979.
“It was the jet stream,” Guinan says when asked why the last three months were so cold. “This winter it’s been incredibly stubborn. We’ve had a ridge of high pressure that has been parked off the West Coast bringing, of course, severe drought conditions to California for much of the winter … that actually drove the jet stream up into Canada and diving back down into the middle part of the country. That was basically an open avenue for all this arctic air just to come in reinforcing shots in December, January and on into February.”
Based on weather records that go back to 1895, Guinan says the past three months averaged 5 degrees Fahrenheit colder than any previous December through February period.
Guinan says the cold has impacted everyone in the state.
“Everybody witnessed higher heating bills because of these temperatures. Anybody who was working out doors, it was very stressful. Not to mention for people but for livestock and pets. I’m sure in the cattle industry it was difficult. Ranchers had to chop ice probably on a daily basis to get water for their livestock, and feeding hay … with these cold temperatures I’m sure there was higher demand for nutrition from the hay for the cattle.”
As for precipitation, Guinan says the past three months in Missouri were below normal, but above normal for snowfall.
“It’s still dry across much of Missouri,” Guinan says. “On the other hand … it’s been so cold that most of the precipitation events that did occur across Missouri fell in the form of snow or ice. That was sort of the irony behind that.”
The prolonged cold has exacerbated the drought in another way. Guinan says the ground in Missouri froze beginning in early December, and to a deeper level than usual. That has meant less of the precipitation that did fall soaked into the ground when it did thaw.
Some parts of the state are more than 10 inches below normal for accumulated precipitation since July 1, 2013. Guinan says significant precipitation events will be needed to replenish soil profiles and refill surface water supplies.