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This Oklahoma town is having an unusual summer due to a shift in the heat dome

Gary McManus, of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, hosted a weather chat Tuesday to discuss summer heat and drought across the state. Below is an unedited transcript of the chat.

FROM STAFF REPORTS Modified: July 9, 2013 at 12:07 pm •  Published: July 9, 2013
DROUGHT: A dry pond is pictured in El Reno, Okla., Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
DROUGHT: A dry pond is pictured in El Reno, Okla., Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Gary McManus, of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, hosted a weather chat Tuesday on NewsOK to discuss summer heat and drought across the state. Below is an unedited transcript of the chat.

NewsOK 10:09 a.m. What will this summer bring? Will we see extreme heat like we had the last few summers?
Gary McManus 10:10 a.m. Too early to say if we're going to end up with the extreme heat like the last two summers. We know we're not going to have another 2011 because we're already a good month in and we haven't seen the endless string of 100s. We could still go into another period like last August where we saw record-breaking temps here in central Oklahoma, however. It all depends on if we get more rainfall, and where does that heat dome camp over.
Gary McManus 10:11 a.m. Of course, western Oklahoma has already seen a good number of 100s, and that's attributed to the drought over that way.
calvary fan 10:12 a.m. is cannon lake filled up? and what is all the hoopla behind it?
Gary McManus 10:13 a.m. Canton Lake is about 19% capacity right now, and steadily going down with the normal evaporation of summer. The hoopla is it is the major recreational lake for NW OK, and supports a large economy out there with about 500,000 visitors per year. It's also part of OKC's water supply. Dire times at Lake Canton right now. Without rain, it could drop another few feet.
Bob Frazier 10:13 a.m. Gary, in the short term, do you see temps in the 100's sneaking into the OC forecast next week?
Gary McManus 10:14 a.m. Bob, it will get extremely close, but the heat indices will probably head into the triple-digits anyway as we evaporate all that rain we had back in May and June and put it in the atmosphere. So it will feel pretty hot regardless.
DBA 10:15 a.m. What is the difference between a Climatologist and a Meteorologist?
Gary McManus 10:15 a.m. DBA,
Gary McManus 10:16 a.m. A climatologist deals with longer-term weather patterns, both past and present, while meteorologists are mainly concerned with the shorter-term weather and forecasts. Each have their specialized areas, but both deal with weather. It's really a matter of time scale, to be really general.
Randy Zabel 10:17 a.m. Based on casual observation the storm patterns this past few springs have shifted geographically. It seems they are further North than they were a decade or so ago. Is this part of a cycle?
Gary McManus 10:19 a.m. There is a bit of science behind that. The La Nina patterns of 2010-11 and 2011-12 did tend to shift things a bit north, by and large, but Oklahoma and the Southern Plains still had significant severe weather seasons in 2011 and again this year. 2012 saw the jet stream far to the north, and drought and lack of any "excitement" dominated the weather patterns.
Gary McManus 10:19 a.m. Throughout most of the country.
Randy Zabel 10:20 a.m. BTW - is this the same Gary McManus from Buffalo?
Gary McManus 10:20 a.m. It is indeed. Hi Randy!
Steve Bitner 10:20 a.m. Oklahoma is saddled with lingering drought and threats from severe weather, so I'm curious why state weather authorities aren't experimenting with weather engineering. Cloud seeding and other forms of weather manipulation and modification — silver iodine and such. Vincent Schaefer and Irving Langmuir had a lot of great ideas, and I feel like Oklahoma is behind countries like Dubai, which are leading the way on such pioneering research.
Gary McManus 10:21 a.m. Steve, I can't really comment on that. The science is still really mixed on things like cloud seeding, so with budgets the way they are, it's tough to justify spending the money, maybe.
Steve Bitner 10:23 a.m. Interesting. Are any weather engineering experiments underway at the weather lab in Norman?
Gary McManus 10:23 a.m. Steve, not that I know of, but that doesn't mean they aren't occurring. I know we are not doing any type of weather engineering experiments in our agency, at least.
Steve Bitner 10:24 a.m. Seems like tornadoes and droughts should be no match for modern science.
NewsOK 10:25 a.m. Here's a question from Twitter:

What parts of Oklahoma are still in a drought? How many days/years? Thanks for your time.
Gary McManus 10:26 a.m. I don't think we know enough about the processes that form tornadoes to tackle them quite yet. Plus, you're dealing with thunderstorms that reach 50k+ feet into the atmosphere. Lots to combat there.
Gary McManus 10:27 a.m. Drought is largely confined across western Oklahoma, spreading into south central and north central areas of the state. The drought is quite significant across the western third of the state, as it has been almost continuously for the last 3 years. Other areas to the east have seen at least two major periods of relief that they have missed out west.
Brian 10:27 a.m. What are your expectations for the next 90 days in SE Oklahoma
Gary McManus 10:29 a.m. Brian, it's starting to get a bit dry down there. I have no reason to think drought is going to intensify, other than just bad memories from the last two summers. So hopefully you'll get some rain down that way. My best guess would be a normal summertime pattern where you continue to get a bit drier with periods of rain until fall. But that's the "I have no science to point to anything different" prediction.
Gary McManus 10:30 a.m. Nothing showing up right now on the long-term forecasts to indicate drought intensification, and many of your lakes down in the SE are quite full.
Bryan Painter 10:30 a.m. What kind of event did it take to break the drought in the 1950s?
Gary McManus 10:32 a.m. Hi Bryan. 1957 ended up as the wettest year on record in Oklahoma, and that was the drought-buster. Started in the spring and culminated in October.
Bob Frazier 10:32 a.m. Gary, the El Reno tornado was reported to be the largest ever record at 2.6 miles wide. It would seem that the earth's warming has caused many rare weather events in the last few years, the extreme SW heat, do you see this extreme weather continuing, and should water conservation be stressed like never before considering we now live in a 'hotter' region, whether we like it or not.
Gary McManus 10:34 a.m. Bob, there has been a lot of peer-reviewed research on that subject (extreme weather increasing as the globe warms). It's tough at this time to correlate any single event with global-scale warming, especially tornadoes. I'm not sure that is supported by the science. Droughts and heat waves are particularly well-represented as increasing in the literature, however. Regardless, while the ocean patterns are still in unfavorable patterns for us folks in the Southern Plains, I think water conservation is a good idea.
NewsOK 10:35 a.m. Good questions. Keep them coming.
NewsOK 10:41 a.m. What is the hottest temperature we've reached so far this summer? Where was it recorded?
Gary McManus 10:43 a.m. The Oklahoma Mesonet site at Freedom hit 111 degrees on June 27, so that appears to be the winner. Again, that area is in significant drought, and that's not a coincidence. Almost all of the 100s have been confined to the western third of the state where the sun's energy goes to heating the surface instead of evaporating soil moisture (a cooling process).
Gary McManus 10:45 a.m. If you look at this map of days above 100 degrees, the drought stands out pretty well:
Gary McManus 10:46 a.m. For Hooker in the Panhandle to have 13 days above 100 already this summer, that is very unusual, and a sign of drought and also the fact the heat dome has been shifted to the west a bit more this year.
Guest 10:47 a.m. Gary,what was so different about the summer of 2004 that brought zero 100 degree days?
Gary McManus 10:48 a.m. Oklahoma summers being either hot or REALLY hot tends to correlate with precipitation. June and July were fairly wet in 2004, and that helped the soil moisture situation, which in turn helped keep the temperatures down.
Gary McManus 10:49 a.m. The summer of 2004 was one of the 20 wettest in state history.
Kramer 10:49 a.m. Do you think our climate in OK is different than it was 20-30 years ago? Winter seems to be warmer and summer obviously hotter.
Gary McManus 10:52 a.m. Our climate has shifted a bit here recently as we've gone into some different oceanic patterns. We haven't had much drought previous to the last few years, and that has helped the heat. Winters have demonstrably warmed across Oklahoma (with notable exceptions) over the last few decades. The droughts over the last 3 years have helped the heat along, as drought and extreme summer heat go hand in hand here in this part of the world. Oklahoma's 2011 summer was the hottest summer for any state since records began in 1895 (based on statewide average).
Lloyd Colston 10:53 a.m. Gary, Can you talk about PNO versus la nina and el nino, pleaae?
Gary McManus 10:53 a.m. Lots of research going on about how the loss of the northern ice cap is impacting weather patterns across the northern hemisphere as well as that ocean begins to be more and more uncovered, absorbing more heat from the sun.
Gary McManus 10:54 a.m. Lloyd, not really familiar with the PNO. PDO maybe?
Lloyd Colston 10:56 a.m. Pacific Neutral Oscillation? Talk about PDO then. :)
Gary McManus 10:57 a.m. The PDO is similar to the El Nino/La Nina oscillation (known as ENSO), except it describes ocean temperature anomalies farther to the north. When it is in negative or cold phase, it can mean drier times for our area. The problem is it lasts for 20-30 years, instead of the 1-3 years of an El Nino or La Nina. Research has shown that we get more La Ninas during periods of cool PDO phase. And La Ninas tend to bring us drier and warmer weather. It's currently in cool phase, so that's one of the reasons we've gone into a different type of drought characteristic lately.
NewsOK 10:59 a.m. Last call for questions before we wrap this chat up.
Lloyd Colston 11:01 a.m. Thanks for that, Gary.
Gary McManus 11:01 a.m. No problem, and good luck down there, Lloyd! Lake Altus and Tom Steed seem to be dropping fast.
NewsOK 11:02 a.m. OK, we're going to wrap this up. Thanks so much to Gary for chatting with us today. You can find more information about weather and drought on our page.

Have a great week, everyone!
Gary McManus 11:03 a.m. Thanks, and stay cool everyone!


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