By JIM SALTER
ST. LOUIS (AP) - This year is on pace to be the warmest on record in parts of Missouri, a continuation of a trend of warmer weather that is affecting flowers, plants and agricultural crops, experts said Monday.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jayson Gosselin said that 2012 through Nov. 24 has been the warmest year on record in both St. Louis and Columbia, Mo., compared with other years through the same date. The average temperature in St. Louis so far this year is 63.4 degrees, a full degree higher than the 62.4-degree average seen in the previous warmest year, 1921.
In Columbia, the previous warmest year as of Nov. 24 was in 1938, when the average was 61 degrees. This year, the average is 61.7 degrees. In Kansas City, Mo., it has been the fourth warmest year on record so far, with an average temperature of 61.3 degrees, Gosselin said.
Five of the 10 warmest years on record in St. Louis have occurred since 2005. The 61.1-degree mark reached in both 2007 and 2010 was tied for sixth. The average of 60.8 degrees through Nov. 24 of both 2005 and 2011 tied for 10th.
Brad Rippey, an agricultural meteorologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said the warmer temperatures have been a problem for farmers.
"We've seen a lot of warming globally and nationwide over the last four decades or so," Rippey said. "One of the things that has come with it is more extreme weather."
Missouri has seen many of those extremes: An unseasonably warm March in 2007, followed by a freeze that damaged many crops. Flooding on parts of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers in spring 2011 was followed this year by the worst drought in decades.
"It's a tough game in the agriculture business because you're always trying to outguess Mother Nature," Rippey said. "With these weather extremes, it makes it a little tougher."
It's also tougher on flowers and plants. June Hutson, of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, said warm weather can stress many varieties. This year, it caused some plants and flowers to bloom up to three weeks early, she said.
"What that meant was they had to find water reserves for a longer period of time," Hutson said. "A lot of things by summer's end were really suffering because of the long growing period they had experienced because of the warm temperatures."
Gosselin, who works in the Weather Service's office near St. Louis, said the "meteorological spring" - March through May - was far and away the warmest ever in St. Louis with an average temperature of 61.1 degrees. Second warmest was 1910, when the average was 57.5 for the spring months. Summer also was unusually warm. Average temperatures in March, May and July all set records in St. Louis, he said.
Gosselin said the forecast from the Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center offers some hope: Near-normal temperatures for January through March and above-normal precipitation.