New U.S. Drought Monitor report shows 30.53 percent of Oklahoma in exceptional drought

Turfgrass specialist said it's important to look back to understand the current condition of some Bermuda grass lawns
BY BRYAN PAINTER bpainter@opubco.com Published: October 12, 2012
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Slightly more than two months after Oklahoma City tied for its warmest temperature on record, the city officially recorded its earliest autumn freeze.

Such is the highly variable weather of Oklahoma.

On Aug. 3, the high temperature was 113 degrees. On Monday, the temperature was 31 degrees at 5:52 a.m. at Will Rogers World Airport.

And the forecast from the National Weather Service, Norman calls for a few days now of highs possibly in the 80s. Add to this the drought with a few rains tossed in as of late.

Dennis Martin, an Oklahoma State University Extension turf grass specialist, said when looking at the effects of these weather swings, it's important to consider the short-term but also the long-term.

In short

In Oklahoma City for example, there was pretty good recovery from the drought conditions of 2011 through the winter and into early spring.

There was very little in the way of cold weather through the winter and that led into an even warmer spring, finishing as the warmest on record for Oklahoma City, more than 5 degrees above normal.

Temperatures only dropped below freezing one day from March to May, a 29 degree reading on March 4.

“The rainfall picked up considerably during March and April, and Oklahoma City recorded 10.95 inches over the two months,” said Gary McManus, of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. “Many thought the drought had ended, and according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Oklahoma City was in the clear.

“The rains suffered a reversal during May, however, a slowdown that would last through August and allow drought to return in full force.”

Only 7.7 inches of rain fell from May through August, more than 8 inches below normal. Also, the heat returned as temperatures reached triple-digits on 23 of 24 days from July 18 to Aug. 9.

But then again, this week, Oklahoma City had its earliest official autumn freeze.

“What these early frosts typically do, if there's any benefit to them at all, is that they knock the crab grass back,” Martin said. “Crab grass kind of takes it on the chin even more so than Bermuda grass. Now if we get a little bit of rainfall, even if it warms back up, the Bermuda's been set back and if the lawns are thin from drought-stress, then often times we have tremendous winter annual weed problems, especially if we would happen to get a few key rainfall events.”

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