Missouri still faces a drought

Alexa Pfeiffer/News Tribune photo: 
Missouri residents gather Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, at Missouri River Regional Library in Jefferson City to listen to state climatologist Zack Leasor talk about climate extremes and future predictions for Missouri if climate change persists.
Alexa Pfeiffer/News Tribune photo: Missouri residents gather Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, at Missouri River Regional Library in Jefferson City to listen to state climatologist Zack Leasor talk about climate extremes and future predictions for Missouri if climate change persists.


With temperatures below zero recently and the area getting some snow, it might be surprising to learn much of the state is still in a drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The Missouri River Regional Library hosted Unraveling Nature's Mysteries with state climatologist Zach Leasor on Tuesday night to shed light on droughts and floods.

"The year 2023 tied for third for the warmest temperature in Missouri," Leasor said. "During winter, it's hard to think about droughts, but we still have a pretty impressive low amount of precipitation. We don't see the agricultural impact currently; we see it in low water supplies, like in our streams."

Abnormally dry conditions in 2023 led to a severe drought in Missouri. By late July, the state's $3.2 billion wine and grape industry was starting to see negative effects on crops, and cattle barns were reporting record sales as livestock producers attempted to sell off cattle they didn't have enough hay to feed. Gov. Mike Parson signed an executive order to activate Missouri's Drought Plan.

"Right now, we really need to focus on recharging the water," Leasor said. "Recharging refers to replenishing groundwater resources, so it happens naturally through rain and snow melt. That is what we are hoping for this spring."

Roughly 20 guests attended Tuesday's meeting to learn about the trends, strategies, and how to prepare for future weather events. Leasor spoke on how droughts and floods impact agriculture, infrastructure and communities.

"The data I'm showing tonight has taken decades to put together," Leasor said. "We know that the temperatures are rising and rainfall is sometimes few and far between; we have the data. Now it's time to understand why, how it happens, and what we can do."

He covered data from the 1880s all the way up to 2023 and reviewed various charts explaining the tracking of rainfall, temperatures and weather-related disasters in the state. He said the state is seeing increases in all three areas.

"The most important thing the public can do is be aware of and actively address the challenges presented by climate variability," Leasor said. "I want to continue to help people understand our environment and learn about the climate."

  photo  Alexa Pfeiffer/News Tribune photo: State climatologist Zack Leasor gives a presentation Tuesday at Missouri River Regional Library to explain the climate changes in Missouri and how that affects crop losses and future trends.
 
 
  photo  Alexa Pfeiffer/News Tribune photo: Missouri climatologist Zack Leasor gives a presentation Tuesday at the Missouri River Regional Library about the extreme changes in global climate.
 
 
  photo  Alexa Pfeiffer/News Tribune photo: State climatologist Zack Leasor gives a presentation Tuesday at the Missouri River Regional Library to explain the climate changes Missouri has seen throughout its history.
 
 
  photo  Alexa Pfeiffer/News Tribune photo: Missouri residents gather Tuesday at thge Missouri River Regional Library for a climate seminar presented by state climatologist Zack Leasor to understand the climate changes we've seen in Missouri so far.
 
 


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