Transcript of Oklahoma heat, drought chat with Gary McManus

FROM STAFF REPORTS Modified: July 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm •  Published: July 24, 2012
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Below is a transcript of a weather chat with Gary McManus of the Oklahoma Mesonet and Climatological Survey about summer heat, weather records and drought.

Hey everyone. Gary McManus from the Oklahoma Mesonet and Climatological Survey will be signing in soon to chat with us about Oklahoma heat. You can start submitting your questions now.
- NewsOK at 09:57

OK, let's get started.
- NewsOK at 10:02

Thanks to Gary McManus for chatting with us today. Oklahoma weather seems to be a very 'hot' topic.
- NewsOK at 10:03

Thanks to NewsOk for having me on to answer questions. A lot of the answers point to "hot," of course! It's really all I've been talking about lately, so I'm ready to go.

- Gary McManus at 10:05

Excellent. Let's dive right in then and talk about the type of weather conditions we experienced last year.
- NewsOK at 10:07

Well, last year was a year of extremes to say the least. We set many all-time records, but the biggie was the summer heat. We experienced the hottest summer of any state since records began in 1895 with a statewide average of 86.9 degrees. Our July was actually the hottest month for any state as well, so that's over 67,000 possible months we topped.

- Gary McManus at 10:10

When you look at statewide average summer temps why does Oklahoma rank at the top so often when we think of some other states as hotter, such as Calif. with Death Valley?
- Bryan Painter at 10:10

But we also set records for all-time lowest temperature (Nowata, -31 degrees on Feb. 10), largest hailstone (6 inches) highest recorded windspeed (151 mph), highest 24 hour snowfall amount (27 inches at Spavinaw) so there was a bit for everybody.

- Gary McManus at 10:11

Well, I think it has a lot to do with geography. We don't have much high elevation like those western states, nor do we have the moderating influence of a coast like Texas and the Gulf states. We just have the perfect geography to give us extreme heat when extreme drought sets in. Phoenix, Las Vegas, Death Valley...none of us would want that type of heat. But based on statewide average, Oklahoma dominates the record books with five of the warmest 10 summers on record (dating back to 1895).
- Gary McManus at 10:12

Why was last summer so unusual for the state?
- NewsOK at 10:15

There's nothing really unusual about a hot summer in Oklahoma, of course, especially during extreme drought. But we topped the previous hottest summer by a full 1.7 degrees. That's an incredible accomplishment on a seasonal scale, especially during the summer. Oklahoma held the old record with a statewide average of 85.2 degrees from 1934.

We also had the highest number of 100-degree days. Grandfield in SW OK had 101 days. The previous record was 86 from Hollis back in 1956. Again, we didn't just edge records out, we absolutely shattered them.
- Gary McManus at 10:17

Gary, Last year you talked about the possiblity of the drought being the tip of the spear so to speak on a long term dry period like the ones we saw in the 1030's and 50's. Thankfully we got rain late last fall and had some winter moisture. Now with this drought starting to intensify again and with the fact we never really recovered from the drought last year when it comes to sub-moisture in the soil, what are your thoughts about this being a longer term drought? I hate to put you on the spot, but what do you think?
- Clay Pope at 10:18

Clay, the talk was of some of the oceanic temperature patterns resembling those of the 1930s and 1950s, and since those play a large role in the world's weather patterns, the concern was there. I think some of those patterns are still a bit lined up to see drought a bit more often than not in the coming years. There is a lot of uncertainty in these types of things, more research is needed. We have been in a La Nina situation for the last couple of years, and of course we've had lots of warm, dry weather. With out probable switch back to El Nino this winter, hopefully we can restart our weather pattern back to more of a cooler, wetter one. And by "cooler" I mean "normal."
- Gary McManus at 10:21

The biggest drought episodes of the last century occurred in the 1950s and 1930s (along with the 1910s). Resembling those patterns would not be good.
- Gary McManus at 10:22

I'M HEARING TALK THAT WE ARE HEADING INTO A VERY DRY PERIOD, LIKE THE DUST BOWL OF THE 30s IN OKLAHOMA
- BILL at 10:22

Bill, really impossible to say. As Clay's question alluded to, there was some talk amongst the climate community that there would be enhanced drought "susceptibility" over the next 10 years. That's not to say full-on drought for 10 straight years, but usual dry times intensified into more severe droughts thanks to unfavorable oceanic temperature patterns. As I mentioned, I am still seeing talk of that, but more research is needed.

We really haven't seen those decade-scale droughts of the 1930s or 1950s again, so while they are in our past, they don't seem to happen very often. For the last 30 years, we have been in an unusually wet period interspersed by short but very severe droughts lasting 1-1.5 years.
- Gary McManus at 10:25

Used to be we'd see a wet decade and then a dry decade. Now it seems wet wet wet, short periods of really dry.
- Gary McManus at 10:26

Gary, Would you discuss how the 11 year solar cycles affect our weather? I understand there are 11 year solar cycles with minimums and maximums. So, is it a pattern every 20 years that we have hotter than normal summers? Are we experinceing more solar flares today than we have in the past 10 years?
- Mark at 10:26

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