2012 will be the warmest year on record in Missouri since 1895, when established instrumental temperature records began, according to Pat Guinan, extension climatologist with the University of Missouri Commercial Agriculture Program.
December temperatures were running well above normal, punctuating a year dominated by unusually high temperatures and drought. The year could also rank among the top 10 driest years on record, and driest since 1980, but we won't know for certain until all the data for the state are processed, Guinan said.
Since the spring of 2010, only a handful of months have had below-normal temperatures in Missouri, Guinan said. March 2012 had temperatures that were an incredible 14 degrees above normal, giving farmers a record head start on planting corn crops.
"Warm spring trends over the past few decades have extended the growing season," Guinan said. "Our median spring freeze date is occurring three to four days earlier compared to the long term." The median date of first fall frosts has not changed much, he said.
Many sunny days in May and June, coupled with above-normal temperatures and below-normal relative humidity, led to unusually high moisture loss from soils, water surfaces and vegetation. The high evaporative losses, in combination with lack of rainfall, resulted in a "flash drought" across the state. Reports of deteriorating pastures, declining soil moisture reserves, limited stock water supplies and crop stress increased significantly as summer progressed.