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Jan. 24, 2013 Volume 35, No. 16

2012 was warmest Missouri year on record, MU climatologist says


A rain-challenged spring set the stage for the summer drought

Last year was the warmest on record in the United States. It was also the warmest in Missouri since 1895, when formal temperature records began, said Pat Guinan, MU Extension climatologist with the MU Commercial Agriculture Program.

December temperatures were well above normal, punctuating a year dominated by unusually high temperatures and drought. The year could rank among the 10 driest years on record, said Guinan, who presented his finding in December at the MU Crop Management Conference in Columbia.

Only a few months have been below normal temperatures since spring 2010, Guinan said. Last March, temperatures were 14 degrees above normal. 

The heat caused plants and trees to bloom early and dry out the soil.

Consecutive 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, Guinan said. The high evaporative losses and lack of rainfall resulted in a “flash drought” across the state. 

Grass and forest fires were reported even with burn bans in place. The extreme conditions affected gardens, lawns, trees and shrubs, with numerous instances of vulnerable species succumbing to water and heat stress. On the Mizzou campus, about 100 trees died during the summer drought, said Pete Millier, director of Campus Facilities–Landscape Services and Mizzou Botanic Garden.  

By the end of July, Missouri had the distinction of having the worst corn and soybean crops and worst pasture conditions in the United States, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Overall, last year was one of the 10 hottest years in America since records have been kept, and all occurred within the last 15 years, the National Climatic Data Center reported. 

For more climate information, go to

— Linda Geist

Correction: 2012 was the warmest year on record for Missouri. A previous headline was inaccurate. — Editor