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The snow, the drought and much more from Gary McManus, state climatologist

by Bryan Painter Published: February 6, 2014
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By Gary McManus, state climatologist, Oklahoma Climatological Survey:

“Yeah yeah, another frigid day, another round of snow. Who can keep up? But yes, it is snowing again, and it appears southwestern through central Oklahoma has picked up another 1-3 inches of snow. For my purposes, it’s much-needed moisture.

“For school kids and kids-at-heart adults, it’s Heaven. I’d be careful about going out to play in it just yet, unless you can cover every single inch of your skin.

“Check out the Mesonet temperature maps.

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/air-temps.pnghttp://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/wind-chills.png

“And it isn’t exactly going to get tropical today, so don’t expect much improvement. In fact, highs like this today will be record-breaking is a lot of areas for lowest maximum temperatures (for February 6s back in history). In some cases, by quite a bit.

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/feb6-forecast-highs.pnghttp://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/feb6-record-low-max.png

“Here’s how our local NWS offices see the day playing out. Have a look at the following not-so-pretty pictures.

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/nws-amarillo.jpghttp://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/nws-norman1.jpghttp://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/nws-norman2.jpghttp://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/nws-norman3.jpghttp://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/nws-tulsa.png

“Now we HAVE to pay attention to this drought, because despite the snow, it trudges on across the western half of the state. First, let’s check out the moisture we’ve gotten from these storm systems in the last few days. Remember, the Mesonet has unheated rain gauges, so much of what has fallen is still sitting in the gauge waiting to melt. Therefore, we’ll rely on the estimates from the River Forecast Center. The five-day map should capture it all. Keep your sights trained on far western Oklahoma.

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/5day-rain-estimates.png

“You can see some decent amounts of over an inch across south central and SE OK, but most places, probably less than a quarter of an inch. Maybe as much as three-quarters of an inch here and there. So not bad for five days in February.

“However, looking at the BIG picture (i.e., the long-term rainfall, you can see that this has merely been a drop in a very dry bucket for much of the state.”

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/30-day-rainfall.pnghttp://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/60-day-rainfall.pnghttp://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/90-day-rainfall.png

The blue hole area across far western Oklahoma, “Yep, that’s basically an inch or less of rain over the last 90 days. And frankly, it’s not much better across most of the northwestern half of the state. And remember, this is coming off a January that saw a ton of extremely dry and windy days, with some very warm ones thrown in to boot.

“How does that look compared to normal? Well, again, it’s not pretty. These from the Mesonet are a bit off due to the lack of current melting, but I’ll show you a radar-derived departure from normal map as well. Not much difference … all show dry.

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/last60dayspct-radar.pnghttp://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/last60dayspct.pnghttp://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/last90dayspct-radar.pnghttp://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/last90dayspct.png

“Oh, you’re still here? OK, what all this culminates in is the new U.S. Drought Monitor map that shows increased severe-extreme (D2-D3) drought across far western Oklahoma.

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/20140204_OK_trd.png

“The amount of the state in extreme drought therefore jumped just a couple of percent from 10.12 to 12.67 percent. It might not seem like much, but to the folks out in Roger Mills County that sent us reports of “extreme” drought conditions, it’s an important sign that they are being heard.

“Prospects for the next week or so? Well, there is another storm on its way for early next week as well that could bring some moisture. And this 7-day precip forecast map contains some of what fell today in it, but at least it shows moisture chances continuing.

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20140206/7day-precip-forecast.gif

“Again, not a lot across the worst drought areas in western Oklahoma, but let me drop a pearl of wisdom on ya … it’s tough to improve drought WITHOUT it.

“We’ll call it a start. Hopefully it will eventually start falling as rain. Sorry kids (and kids at heart).”

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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