One of Coldest Winters in 30 Years Keeps Snowpack Longer than Usual

Duane Dailey, MU Cooperative Media Group

COLUMBIA, Mo. - This year Missourians were reminded that winters can have frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall.

Preliminary numbers rank this winter as one of the coldest in 30 years-the worst since the two severe winters of 1978-79 and 1979-80. Those ranked No. 1 and No. 2 on the coldness record.

"An unusually persistent weather pattern contributed to this long cold spell," said Pat Guinan, University of Missouri Extension climatologist. "One of the strongest cold snaps in more than a decade occurred during the first 10 days of January. The most recent cold spell has held a grip on the state for much of February."

Other cold winters occurred in 1981-82 and 2000-01. "It's too close to tell whether this winter will be colder," Guinan said. This is the first winter since 1981-82 that all three months of December through February reported below-normal temperatures.

Temperatures in February averaged 5-8 degrees below normal over the state. With February at an end, the last three-month average will fall between 27 and 28 degrees.

Guinan said this winter could squeak into the records as one of top 10 coldest in 116 years, but it will more likely fall in the top 15.

Low temperatures led to more snowfall and lack of snowmelt.

Portions of northwestern Missouri have reported nearly 50 inches of snow. Some counties have had continuous blankets of snow since Dec. 7, Guinan said.

A weather observer in Daviess County near Gallatin, Mo., recorded 50.1 inches of snow so far this winter. Other reports around Maryville, Mo., are near the 50-inch mark.

The northwest half of the state had snowfall ranging from 20 to 40 inches. The rest of the state had 10-20 inches of snow.

Low temperatures and heavy snow have implications for Missouri agriculture, said Guinan, who tracks weather for the MU Commercial Agriculture Program.

Little evaporation has led to continued periods of surplus soil moisture. The concern started with 10 inches of rainfall in October, making it the second wettest on record.

Guinan expects to see no drying of the soil well into March as lower temperatures continue. While no significant precipitation is expected over the next couple of weeks, there will be little chance for drying.

Crop fields, heavily rutted during harvest last fall, have remained frozen with little reduction of ruts. The torn-up fields and low soil temperatures could delay spring planting.

Snow cover reduced winter grazing of stockpiled pastures by beef herds. Owners fed more hay than expected. Cold weather increases nutrient demand by livestock trying to keep warm.

While livestock water remains plentiful in ponds and streams, farmers spend more time chopping ice to open water holes.

"It's been a winter to test farmers' patience," Guinan said.


Guinan maintains a statewide network of automated recording stations that provide local agricultural weather updates on the Internet. See

Questions? Comments?
Please e-mail Dr. Patrick Guinan , Phone: 573-882-5908
Missouri State Climatologist
School of Natural Resources
102 Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources Building
Columbia, MO 65211