OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The average daily temperature for the first five months of 2012 has been the hottest on record in Oklahoma, and drought is creeping back into the state a year after a summer that broke national and state records for heat, an official with the Oklahoma Climatological Survey said Wednesday.
The January-May statewide average of 56.3 degrees was 5.2 degrees above normal in records that date to 1895, said Gary McManus, associate state climatologist.
The average daily temperature for spring, the months of March, April and May, according to the Climatological Survey, was also the warmest on record at 65.1 degrees, 6 degrees above normal and more than 2 degrees above the previous mark for spring of 62.9 degrees set in 2006.
“As we're entering summer, the heat and the possible return of drought is probably the biggest concern right now,” McManus said.
Severe to extreme drought conditions were reported in the Oklahoma Panhandle and far northwestern and southwestern Oklahoma by the U.S. Drought Monitor. The eastern two-thirds of the state were rated as abnormally dry.
Rain that began falling earlier in the week was expected to continue through Thursday, according to the National Weather Service, helping somewhat ease the drought conditions.
“The one great equalizer we have to combat that summer heat is rainfall. If we can keep that rainfall up we could avoid the excessive temperatures this summer,” McManus said.
The weather service's Climate Prediction Center rated as equal the chance that rainfall would at least reach normal levels. Forrest Mitchell with the weather service in Norman said more precipitation than last year is expected.
“That's a hint that perhaps that while temperatures may be above normal, it won't be as severe,” Mitchell said. “That doesn't mean we won't have 100-degree days. Maybe it won't be over such a widespread area.”
In July 2011, Oklahoma racked up the country's highest monthly average temperature ever, 89.1 degrees, according to the Climatological Survey. The average temperature for the summer, 86.5 degrees, was the hottest in state history. Also, the record for number of days with temperatures 100 degrees or above was broken when Grandfield topped triple digits 101 times to best the 86 days set in Hollis in 1956.