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Climatologists: 2023 was likely Earth's warmest year on record, Missouri's third


September through November 2023 will go down on record as Earth’s warmest such period on record, a substantial leap — 0.70 degrees Fahrenheit — above the previous record from 2015, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The report uses historical climate data going back to 1850.

NOAA says there is a 99% chance that 2023 will be the warmest year in 174 years of records.

The average annual temperature in the lower 48 states was 54.43 degrees, making it the fifth-warmest year on record dating back to 1895, based on data from NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information.

In a record-breaking year with many climate extremes across the globe, Missouri also experienced unusually warm and dry conditions in 2023, says Zack Leasor, University of Missouri Extension state climatologist.

Missouri’s average temperature in December was 9.1 degrees above average.

“This continues a streak of 14 consecutive months with above-normal average monthly temperatures in Missouri,” Leasor says. “Eleven counties in northern Missouri experienced their warmest December on record. The smallest county in the state, Worth County, in northwest Missouri, was warmest, with temperatures 11.5 degrees above average,” he says.

The statewide average temperature for 2023 was 57.4 degrees, making 2023 the third-warmest year on record for Missouri going back to 1895 and 2.9 degrees above the 1901-2000 average, he says.

The same data shows that Missouri’s annually averaged daily high temperatures were higher on average (3.2 degrees warmer) than daily low temperatures (2.6 degrees warmer). Howell and Oregon counties in southern Missouri set the record for their warmest year on record, breaking records from 2012 and 2016, respectively, Leasor says.

Missouri finished the year with 35.89 inches of precipitation, which is 4.61 inches below the state’s annual average. 2023 ranked as the 24th driest year on record. Excluding some of the wetter months of the year, the eight-month period of April to November was the seventh driest stretch on record, with the 2023 drought defining the state’s growing season.

The only years with drier growing seasons include some of the most notable drought years in state history: 1901, 1953, 1980, 2012, 1976 and 1930. Thirteen counties ended 2023 with precipitation deficits exceeding 10 inches for the year.

For more information on Missouri’s climate, go to climate.missouri.edu.