February 2015 Weather and Its Impacts on Missouri

Pat Guinan
State Climatologist
Commercial Agriculture/University of Missouri Extension

Old Man Winter returned with a vengeance in February bringing arctic cold and significant snow to Missouri. Preliminary data indicate a statewide average temperature of 26.0°F, nearly 8 degrees below the long-term average. The month was slightly colder than February last year, and it was the coldest February since 1989, Figure 1. The persistent cold weather in February, Figure 2, ran counter to generally mild winter conditions in December and January, Figure 3. It was cold enough to bring the winter (Dec-Jan-Feb) average temperature to below normal, Figure 4. Preliminary data indicate the winter of 2014-15 averaged slightly less than 1 degree below the long-term average.

Some of the coldest temperatures in more than 20 years were reported over parts of southeastern Missouri in February. A deep blanket of snow, in combination with clear skies and calm winds, maximized nighttime cooling across southeastern Missouri. Several locations reported sub-zero temperatures in the region. Cape Girardeau Municipal Airport reported minimum temperatures of -11°F, -7°F and -14°F on Feb 17, 18 and 19, respectively. An unusually mild weekend on Feb 7-8 brought brief relief from the cold, as high temperatures climbed into the 50's and 60's.

Precipitation was variable, but preliminary data indicate the statewide average was 1.73 inches, or about 0.80 inches below the long-term average. It was the 4th consecutive month with below average precipitation, Figure 5. Monthly totals ranged from 1-2 inches over northern, central and southwestern sections to 2-4 inches across far southeastern Missouri. Precipitation was heaviest in the Bootheel where 4 or more inches were common.

The cold temperatures created opportunities for winter-like weather and several significant snow events impacted the state. A heavy snow event impacted northern Missouri on Jan 31-Feb 1 with 4-10 inches of snow. Another heavy snow event impacted the southern 2/3 of Missouri on Feb 15-16 with 3-12 inches of snow. The University of Missouri at Columbia was closed on Feb 16 when 5-7 inches of snow fell over the area and created hazardous travel conditions. Cape Girardeau reported a foot of snow on Feb 16. On Feb 20-21, a wintry mix resulted in difficult travel conditions across parts of Missouri, with 3-7 inches of snow falling over northeastern sections. Another heavy snow event impacted much of the state on Feb 28 with 2-7 inches of snowfall.

Most of the state reported more than 6-inches of snow for the month with heaviest totals occurring in northern and southeastern sections where more than a foot was common, Figure 6. Some of the heaviest monthly snowfall totals were reported in Sikeston (15"), Unionville (16.7"), Edina (17.9"), Elsberry (18.4") and Hannibal (19.5").

Impacts were numerous with the persistent cold February temperatures. Energy consumption was unusually high and reflected in consumer's home heating bills. Cold stress was realized on outdoor workers, exposed livestock and pets. Ranchers were challenged with routinely chopping ice for livestock and feeding hay. The extended period of cold weather contributed toward an unusually deep and persistent frost line in the soil with numerous incidents of frozen and broken pipes reported.

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Missouri Average February Temperature 1895-2015

Figure 1.

Columbia, MO February Daily Max/Min Temperature Normal vs 2015

Figure 2.

Missouri Monthly Temperature Departure from Average* Jan 2014 - Feb 2015

Figure 3.

Missouri Average Temperature Dec-Jan-Feb, 1895-2015

Figure 4.

Missouri Monthly Precip. Departure from Average* Jan 2014 - Feb 2015

Figure 5.

Accumulated Snowfall (in): February 1, 2015 - February 28, 2015

Figure 6.

Average Temperature (°F): February 1, 2015 - February 28, 2015
Average Temperature (°F): Departure from Mean February 1, 2015 - February 28, 2015
Accumulated Precipitation (in): February 1, 2015 - February 28, 2015
Accumulated Precipitation (in): Departure from Mean February 1, 2015 - February 28, 2015

Source: Pat Guinan, 573-882-5908