’05 saw summer of weather extremes

Forecasters expect the rest of winter to be warmer than usual.
Wednesday, January 4, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:06 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The summer of 2005 was a weather roller coaster for the Columbia area as rainfall jumped from one extreme to the other.

July, the driest month of 2005, brought just 0.62 inches of rain, while August showered the rain gauge at Columbia Regional Airport with 10.19 inches, making it the wettest August since record-keeping began in 1890.

According to figures provided by MU climatologist Pat Guinan, July ended up the sixth driest on record. July also marked the year’s warmest month as temperatures reached 105 degrees on two consecutive days.

The combination of minimal rain and heat contributed to a drought that turned fields of corn and other crops into a wilted blanket of brown.

A stretch of 28 days with no measurable rain started in mid-June and ended in mid-July. The drought contributed to a statewide loss of $336 million in corn, soybean and hay crops, said Pat Westhoff, an agricultural economist at MU’s Farm and Agriculture Research Policy Institute.

On July 20, the city of Columbia pumped a record 23.69 million gallons of water as residents tried to keep their lawns green. The demand prompted the Columbia Water and Light Department to issue a water conservation alert that discouraged washing cars and filling pools. Residents were also asked to use a watering schedule based on odd and even house addresses.

“There was good public participation,” department spokeswoman Connie Kacprowicz said. “Everyone took it seriously enough that we saw the water use drop.”

The National Weather Service summary for 2005 noted it was the 13th warmest year in Columbia since record-keeping began in 1890.

Aside from the summer drought and its effects, “the year was not that exciting,” said Jim Kramper of the weather service office in St. Louis. “When it’s dry, it tends to be boring. The weather was really no big deal, and I’ll take that any year.”

With 2005 in the books, the new year began with unseasonably mild temperatures, and that trend could continue.

“The climate people in Washington said the Midwest has a chance of being above normal this winter, and that seems to be what’s happening,” Kramper said. “We’re trending on the warm side, and the rest of this week looks above normal.”

The forecast calls for a high near 50 today, with temperatures cooling into the low 40s on Thursday and Friday before rebounding this weekend. There’s no mention of precipitation through Tuesday.

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