Our Crazy-Quilt Climate

Climate Spring 01Enlarge photo

'If you don't like the weather in the Ozarks, wait ten minutes.' 

                                                                                                    --old saying

'We get up in a different world every day.'

                                             --Ronda Young, north Greene County, Missouri, gardener

It's true. The weather in the Ozarks can be an absolute crazy quilt of sun, heat, rain, cold, wind, storms, hail, and you name it, when we least expect any of them. Why is this so? The best explanation we know comes from Rachel Snyder in her wonderful book Gardening in the Heartland. Rachel for 31 years edited Flower & Garden magazine in Kansas City and writes, We are far from climate-tempering influences--no oceans or great lakes are nearby, no mountain ranges to divert the winds, not even any great forests to help cool our summers and warm our winters. Wild extremes of temperature are commonly experienced within a short time.

How crazy is our climate? Mark this down, because for people in our part of the country, it's a life-changing fact:

    The city with the most changeable weather in the United States is Springfield, Missouri.

    This observation comes from the National Weather Service and is based on variations in temperature, rainfall, winds, thunderstorms, snow, sleet, hail, tornadoes, and other weather phenomena. 

    Of course, knowing the true extent of our climate's wackiness frees one from the almost perpetual groping for a handle on what the weather will be at any given time. Even for our best meteorologists, it's mostly guesswork.

Here are some notes on our Ozarks climate season by season:


crocuses-jpg.jpgThe arrival of spring is always a surprise in the Ozarks. The sight of crocuses blooming in February, for example, can fool many into thinking winter is really over. True spring in any region, however, comes only after the average last-frost date, and in Springfield, Missouri, that date, according to the National Climatic Center, is May 2nd.
     Our savviest gardeners, those who've seen many, many springs, advise waiting till May 10th to plant in order to avoid any risk of losing new plants to a freeze. The good news is that whenever we plant, we have a generous 190-day-plus growing season that supports an amazing variety of plant life.



Our summers can be humid or dry and very, veru hot. Here, a batch of super-summery sunflowers from a local grower.


A leisurely stroll through almost any Ozarks neighborhood in the fall can be a real experience. In October 2003 this block on east Bennett in Springfield, Missouri, was breathtaking. Our fall color for 2004 was erratic, thanks to a dry spell in August and September and torrential rains in November, more quirks of our quirky climate.



Our Ozarks winters, like winters virtually everywhere, are milder these days, but we do still see some snow. This photo from the winter of 2003-2004 shows our last appreciable snowfall. Since then, our winter snows have lasted no more than a day. Will we ever again see a real break-out-the-sleds-'n-mittens snowfall? Who knows?


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