Answer Man: Could you do a column on the “Ozark Plateau” and its effect on weather around here? I’ve heard others reference the alleged plateau but can’t find anything about it. It seems like weaker storms approaching Springfield tend to break up or go around us. Sometimes it seems like we’re in a kind of bubble. — Chris Greig, of Springfield
The phrase “Ozarks Plateau” means the same thing as “the Ozarks” or the “Ozark Mountains.”
If you want to know what the boundaries of “the Ozarks” are, I’ll refer you to the Answer Man column I wrote on Feb. 18, 2018.
If you consider “the Ozarks” in a strictly geological sense, it is a large land mass called the “Ozarks Plateau” or, as some highfalutin academics like to say, “the Ozarks Uplift.”
The designation has to do with shifting tectonic plates under the earth’s surface and the formation over epochs of the Ozark Mountains of mostly northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri and a sliver of northeast Oklahoma.
If I fully understood all this shifting of tectonic plates and how the Ozarks consists of five physiographic subregions, I would explain it all to you — and no doubt put you to sleep.
Gordon McCann, 89, is a longtime guitar player and Ozarks folklorist and archivist. His basement is a mini-library of Ozarks history.
McCann once collaborated with Vance Randolph, who wrote extensively about Ozarks customs and history. Randolph died in 1980 at age 87.
Since McCann knows “the Ozarks” so well, I asked him back in 2018 where “the Ozarks” is.
He told me back then that he is aware of the nonsense — based on geology — of it including parts of Kansas and Illinois.
To him, the real-deal Ozarks is southwest Missouri, including Springfield, northwest Arkansas, and a little bit of northeast Oklahoma.
This, he says, is the “cultural Ozarks.”
But the “cultural Ozarks,” to the best of my knowledge, does not impact Ozarks weather.
For that, I called Jamie Warriner, chief meteorologist for KOLR10 and Ozarks Fox. He has been in Springfield since 2011.
“Weather events are often very localized and this can give the appearance that things are moving around a location,” he says. “But the plateau, because of its elevation and orientation, does have some impact on the finer details of how the weather will behave.”
“There is an impact on local weather,” he tells me. “It is marginal but there is an impact.”
The “spine” of the Ozarks Plateau is along Interstate 44, he says.
Springfield has an elevation of 1,300 feet.
Hermitage and Lake of the Ozarks, for example, are at about 800 feet. Branson has an elevation of 774 feet.
That difference can have a minor impact on weather that he takes into account when “fine-tuning” his forecast.
In winter, he says, the temperatures can be marginally cold enough at the higher elevation to support snow versus a cold rain at lower elevations.
And a weather front can occasionally get “hung up” as it tries to make its way across that plateau spine along Interstate 44, he says.
“It can cause shallow, dense, colder air to back up, sometimes leading to ice,” he says.
Keep those questions coming. Send them to The Answer Man at 417-836-1253, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @stevepokinNL or by mail to 651 Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65806.