Our changeable weather

St. Louis offers a constantly changing menu of weather.  The old line about St. Louis--"If you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes"--has more than a grain of truth to it.

Local weather extremes

Most days +100: 37 (1936)
Most days -0: 14 (1976-77)
Coldest wind chill: -48 (1985)
Snowiest year: 63.3 inches (1912)
Highest wind gust: 83 mpg (1981)
Earliest frost: Sep 28, 1942
Latest frost: May 10, 1966

(St. Louis weather records)

The Arch effect

Those who track St. Louis weather have been startled, from to time to time, to see storm systems divide before they get to the city, only to rejoin again in the east. 

No one has a very compellling explanation why this happens:  the phenomenon has a minor notoriety as the "the arch effect," as if the Gateway Arch were shielding the city from the worst of the weather.

(The so-called Arch effect)

The area offers four legitimate seasons, and a mix of extremes, from a high temperature of 115 to a low of 23 below zero.  Twenty annual inches of snow is the average, but there are years when there is none.  Precipitation can show up as anything from misty rain to sheets of ice. 

Local residents grumble about St. Louis' damp summers. There is a perverse pride taken in how muggy and uncomfortable things are.  The National Weather Service tells us St. Louis is not as bad as we think.  Chicago's humidity is practically identical to St. Louis; Nashville and Indianapolis are actually worse.

Weather on the air : a history of broadcast meteorology
Robert Henson.
Boston, Mass. : American Meteorological Society, c2010.
From low humor to high drama, TV weather reporting has encompassed an enormous range of styles and approaches, triggering chuckles, infuriating the masses, and at times even saving lives. InWeather on the Air,meteorologist and science journalist Robert Henson covers it all--the people, technology, science, and show business that combine to deliver the weather to the public each day. The first comprehensive history of its kind,Weather on the Airexplores the many forces that have shaped weather broadcasts over the years, including the long-term drive to professionalize weathercasting, the complex relations between government and private forecasters, and the effects of climate-change science and the Internet on today's broadcasts. Dozens of photos and anecdotes accompany Henson's more than two decades of research to document the evolution of weathercasts, from their primitive beginnings on the radio to the high-gloss, graphics-laden segments we watch on television every morning. This engaging study will be an invaluable tool for students of broadcast meteorology and mass communication and an entertaining read for anyone fascinated by the public face of weather.
The weather of the future : heat waves, extreme storms, and other scenes from a climate-changed planet
Heidi Cullen.
New York : HarperCollins, c2010.
Climatologist Cullen (research scientist, Climate Central; visiting lecturer, Princeton U.) does not mind that she's been mistaken for a meteorologist from her appearances on The Weather Channel. As a "weather geek," she presents an accessible account of the relationship between weather and climate, and forecasts changes from readings of the past and current indicators. The book includes maps, a US climate change almanac, statistics for New York City, and a ranking of the world's most vulnerable places for specific weather-related threats. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Backpacker predicting weather : forecasting, planning, and preparing
Lisa Densmore.
Guilford, Conn. : Falcon Guides, c2010.
Backpacker Magazine branded, and fueled by FalconGuides, these books bring you essential mind gear from the two most respected and reliable publishers of outdoor-related information. Perfect for pack or pocket, each book breaks down its subject into the essential topics, providing practical and portable information useful in the field. Full-color photos, charts, and illustrations are organized with text by experts in a brief and accessible manner, introducing readers to basic and intermediate skills needed to safely and successfully get by in the outdoors.
Warnings : the true story of how science tamed the weather
Mike Smith.
Austin, Tex. : Greenleaf Book Group Press, c2010.
Experience the most devastating storms of the last fifty years through the eyes of the scientific visionaries who took them on and tamed them. Science and politics collide in this thrilling account of America's struggle for protection against the deadly threat of violent weather. Warnings tells the dramatic true stories of the unsung weather warriors who save innocent lives, often by risking their own.

Weather generally blows in from the west here, and the mixed results are caused by the different sources:  some air masses howl down from Canada, while others work their way up from the Gulf of Mexico.  Occasionally, both systems arrive simultaneously, with predictably dramatic results. 

Weather forecasting in St. Louis becomes an interesting hobby for some; a scientific profession for others.  Local hobbyists and meteorologists talk about the "Cyclone of 1896," "Drought of 1988" and "Great Flood of 1993".

For the most part, St. Louisans accept their local weather, looking forward to spring and autumn.  Winters are deemed tolerable, while summers are conceded to be miserable. 

It's the transitional seasons that can make living in St. Louis a pleasure.  After the cold of winter, we are grateful for the promise of spring; after the summer's heat, we relish the fulfillment of autumn.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff