Discover Missouri’s Coldest January on Record

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Published: January 23, 2023
© Raney
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Missouri, also called the “Show Me State,” is located in the midwestern United States. It is in Tornado Alley and is widely known for its numerous severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Moreover, the weather overall can be pretty extreme and varied, with temperatures rising and dropping drastically within hours. Although its winters aren’t as harsh as those in other northern states, the temperatures can sometimes be extremely low. Since January is generally considered the coldest month of winter, let’s discover which year claims Missouri’s coldest January on record!

What’s the Weather Like in Missouri?

top of Taum Sauk Mountain
Springs in Missouri are very humid, reaching the peak from April to June.

©Steven Schremp/

The weather in Missouri is highly varied because of its location on the continent. It has no mountains on its territory or oceans surrounding it, so it often registers extreme temperatures. Generally, the state has a humid subtropical climate, meaning it has long, hot summers and cool winters. However, the climate is slightly different in the south, closer to a rather humid continental location.

Springs in Missouri are very humid, reaching the peak from April to June. Moreover, the state has an average of 35 tornadoes annually, most of which happen during the spring. From June to August, Missouri gets extremely hot, with a mean temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The highest temperatures are recorded in July or August. Once the temperatures start dropping in the autumn, the state becomes drier. The autumnal mean temperature is 56.5 degrees Fahrenheit. As for the winters, which are of concern to us today, they can be very long and either mild or extremely cold. It’s typically much colder in the northern region than in the southern one. Missouri’s snowy period starts on the 20th of November and ends on the 13th of March, with January being the month with the most snowfall.

What’s Missouri’s Coldest January on Record?

Some sources state that January 1977 was the coldest month on record, with an average daily temperature of 13.6 degrees Fahrenheit, an average low of 4.6 degrees, and an average high of 22.6 degrees. Other sources state that Missouri’s coldest January on record was that of 1940, when the average temperature was 15.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, we can also consider the average temperature during all winter months, which will lead us to the fact that the winter of 1977-1978 was the coldest, indicating that it had the coldest January, too. During those months, the average temperature dropped to 24.3 degrees Fahrenheit. That winter saw heavy snowfall, reaching 54.4 inches.

Others confirm that the coldest winter on record was the 1978-1979 winter, as it had an average temperature of 24.1 degrees Fahrenheit. The difference is minimal, but we can agree that both years were very cold, indicating that during the 1970s, Missouri faced some of its coldest winters ever! In fact, some climatologists believed that the state was slipping into a kind of ice age!

What’s Missouri’s Coldest Temperature on Record?

Snowstorm in St. Louis, Missouri.
Missouri’s coldest temperature on record is -40 degrees Fahrenheit.

© Dummitt

Missouri’s coldest temperature on record is -40 degrees Fahrenheit. It was recorded on February 13th, 1905, in Warsaw, a city located in Benton County. Based on the climate data for 1991 – 2020, the temperatures back in 1905 weren’t uncommon. The city still has very cold winters, with the lowest mean minimum recorded in January at 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Interestingly, this same city holds the state’s record for the hottest temperature: 118 degrees Fahrenheit! That being said, Warsaw’s average annual temperature is 56.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

Other Missouri Weather Events

Over the last century, Missouri has registered many significant weather events, which confirms that its weather and climate are highly varied. 

  • For instance, on the 11th of November 1911, temperatures dropped by 50 degrees over 3 hours and by 65 – 70 degrees over 18 – 24 hours!
  • In 1924, the state was hit by an ice storm that lasted four days and covered most of the state in ice.
  • A few weeks later, the Tri-State Tornado killed 695 people (9 in Missouri) and injured 2027 while traveling 219 miles over the country.
  • Two years later, in 1927, Missouri dealt with three tornadoes, of which the Poplar Bluff was the worst, killing 93 people and causing $2 million in damage.
  • In 1934, Missouri registered its hottest summer, with an average temperature of 81.9 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In 1938, there were 13 tornadoes reported in Missouri! However, they didn’t cause as much damage as those of 1927.
  • The Midwest Tornado hit the country in 1967; During this year, Missouri registered 13 tornadoes again.
  • In 1973, the Mississippi River flooded; in 1977, there was a flash flood in Kansas City that caused 25 deaths and $90 million in damage; and in 1986, there was yet another flood, this time on the Missouri River.

What Wildlife Thrives in Missouri?

Although the state has a varied and pretty challenging climate, it is home to many flora and fauna species, primarily thanks to its rivers, hills, and forests. 

Missouri Animals

Here’s a list of animals living in Missouri:

  • Beavers
  • Voles
  • Bats
  • Woodchucks
  • Raccoons
  • Coyotes
  • White-tailed deer
  • Owls
  • Hawks
  • Sparrows
  • Warblers
  • Ducks
  • Turtles
  • Lizards
  • Snakes
  • Salamanders
  • Toads
  • Fish

While some animals hibernate, brumate, or migrate, others are active during the winter and survive by moving less to preserve energy and storing extra body fat during the summer. While many birds fly to southern countries, others, like the barn owl, the red-bellied woodpecker, and the northern bobwhite, are year-round residents. Birds like the black duck, the bald eagle, and the winter wren are also winter residents in Missouri.

Missouri Plants

As for the fauna of the state, here are some native plants you may stumble upon while visiting Missouri:

  • Big Bluestem
  • American Lotus
  • Shortleaf pine
  • Red hawthorn
  • Slippery Elm
  • Red Mulberry
  • American chestnut
  • White ash
  • Buttonbush
  • Fragrant sumac
  • Silver maple

Many of the plants found in the state are evergreen. Studies show that some evergreen broad-leaved species can survive temperatures as low as -31 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit! They just might survive Missouri’s lowest temperature ever recorded!

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The Featured Image

St. Louis, Missouri with winter snow
St. Louis, Missouri with winter snow.
© Raney

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About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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