COLUMBIA, Mo. –It’s been a pretty typical July, weather-wise, in Missouri. The only problem is it’s barely June, and high temperatures and lack of rain threaten damage to crops, pastures and lawns.
A University of Missouri climatologist said May, and now June, continued a weather trend that set records and prefaced an emerging drought most of the state faces.
“Back to back we’ve seen top 10 records for temperature highs and precipitation lows for Missouri, and we’re breaking various temperature records left and right across the state with a string of some very mild months,” said Pat Guinan, MU Extension state climatologist for the Commercial Ag Program.
The lack of rain is reaching a dire point for drought-stricken areas. In May, preliminary data indicated Missouri only averaged 2.30 inches of rain, ranking it as the eighth driest on record since 1895 for what is typically the wettest month of the year.
Temperatures brought no relief either. Running about 5 degrees above normal, the 70-degree average will likely fall in the top five warmest May periods on record for the state.
When climatologists look at spring – from March to May – it’s just one record-breaking event after another.
“It was our warmest spring on record, which blew the previous record set in 1977 out of the water by 3 degrees,” Guinan said. “That’s significant because typically you break a monthly or seasonal record by a smaller margin.”
You can see the impact in the field.
MU Extension specialists across Missouri observed uneven soybean stands and corn fields where leaves would roll from lack of moisture and heat, both signs of drought stress. Pastures and lawns also have that characteristic “crunch” when walked upon due to the browned, dead or dormant grass needing a drink.
Southeastern Missouri began experiencing the dryness in April, but it has since spread across the rest of the state. especially after the first week of May.
“It’s called an Omega block, where the upper level pressure pattern takes the shape of the Greek Omega character,” Guinan said. “If you look at a synoptic map of the upper air patterns over the past few weeks, you see a high pressure ridge across the center of the U.S. and trough-like areas of low pressure in the east and west, literally looking like an Omega.
This typifies a blocking pattern, keeping clear skies and little precipitation in the middle part of the country.