Pat Guinan is the University of Missouri Extension state climatologist and director of the Missouri Climate Center, analyzing the state’s climate and weather records. He is also a professor of climatology and works with MU’s drought resources, grain crops, beef Extension and irrigation programs.
Guinan joined MU as a station climatologist with the Agricultural Experiment Station in 1988. He has served as the director of the Missouri Climate Center since 2005, and as an Extension associate professor since 2013. Since 1992, he has co-managed the Missouri Mesonet, a network of 36 automated weather stations across the state.
In 2019, MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources awarded Guinan its Frederick B. Mumford Award for outstanding faculty.
Guinan writes periodic weather data updates with historical climate context on the climate center website at climate.missouri.edu.
MFT: When you look back on 2022, what kind of weather year was it?
GUINAN: Highly variable with plenty of extremes, especially in the precipitation category, though an extraordinary spring heat wave impacted all of Missouri during the second week of May. Data indicated more than 150 temperature records broken in Missouri between May 9-14. High humidity accompanied the record warmth and led to record heat indexes for the time of year. Late winter and spring conditions were mostly wet, especially across the southern half of the state. By the first week of June, no dryness was found statewide according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
However, conditions quickly deteriorated as summer progressed, especially across the southern half of Missouri, with increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall. By the end of July, moderate to extreme drought was impacting much of the southern half of the state, with drought impacts, mostly agricultural, including reports of crop and pasture losses and livestock stress. Hydrological concerns were also emerging with lowering water supplies. Alternatively, northern Missouri fared better with cooler and wetter June-July conditions.
A historic extreme rainfall event impacted the St. Louis area on July 26 with some locations in St. Charles and St. Louis Counties reporting more than 1 foot of rain over a 24-hour period. It was the first time the NWS office in St. Louis issued a flash flood emergency. There were numerous reports of flooded roads, residences and businesses. At least two flood related fatalities were reported.
Typical of the summer season, August rainfall was highly variable, ranging from less than 1 inch to nearly 11 inches, according to rain gauge observations. The northern half of the state received below-average rainfall while wetter conditions emerged across much of the southern half of Missouri, bringing some respite to the heat and drought.
Heat and dryness returned with a vengeance in September. Parts of west central and southern Missouri were especially hard hit, where varying degrees of dryness persisted for much of the summer. There were reports of significant crop and pasture losses and dwindling feed and water supplies for livestock. Dry September conditions provided little or no opportunity for renewed grass growth for pastures and lawns statewide and seeding efforts for cool season turfgrasses were severely hampered.
A mid-October hard freeze put an end to the growing season, and grass did not recover despite wetter conditions toward the end of the month. Livestock winter feed supply concerns remained for the winter season as well as depleted water supplies above and below the ground. Severe to extreme drought was still impacting sizable portions of Missouri during the last week of October.
November was unusually mild for the first 10 days, but much colder conditions dominated during the rest of the month. Above-average precipitation impacted the western half of Missouri during November with below-average elsewhere. Ongoing drought conditions were eased somewhat but were by no means eliminated.
MFT: How much weather variety does Missouri see from year to year?
GUINAN: Weather variety is common in Missouri, and 2022 was testimony to it.
MFT: How far back do weather records go, and what is the value of having many years of weather data?
GUINAN: Some weather records in Missouri go well back into the 19th Century. The National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Program was established in 1890 when Congress passed an act and President Benjamin Harrison signed it into law. One of the major objectives of the network was to define the climate of the United States as well as to use the temperature and precipitation data for measuring long-term trends or changes.
MFT: What do you enjoy most about being a state climatologist?
GUINAN: As an Extension and state climatologist, I enjoy sharing my knowledge of weather and climate with Missourians and beyond. Thanks to observing networks, some of which have been around for well over a century, the Show-Me State has a wealth of climate data. I like to talk about climate trends and historic events Missouri has experienced, as well as how climate information can be integrated into numerous disciplines for application and value.
Our changing climate also presents challenges and opportunities when it comes to adaptation and resilience in a warming world. My duties and responsibilities provide unique opportunities for visiting with diverse audiences and stimulate me to seek and provide creative methods of teaching across the state. Teaching is multi-dimensional, and my platform for sharing ideas, encouraging thinking and promoting understanding transcends numerous outlets. I also enjoy responding to weather- and climate-related inquiries. Climate service is a vital and valuable component for a state climate program and I see it as an obligation to fulfill.