Drought flourished across Oklahoma over the past month, fed by one of the state’s driest and warmest Novembers on record. Six of the Oklahoma Mesonet’s 120 stations recorded no precipitation for the month, and another 77 recorded a quarter of an inch or less. High temperatures rose into the 70s and 80s with regularity. The temperature at the Altus and Mangum Mesonet sites soared to 94 degrees on the 17th, the second highest November temperature on record in Oklahoma, dating back to 1892. It was also the highest temperature ever recorded in the state that late in the calendar year. The warm, dry weather took its toll. Reports of winter wheat stressed by the dry conditions were common, especially in the wheat belt of western Oklahoma. According to USDA officials, 75 percent of the state’s topsoil moisture was rated as “short to very short” by the end of November. Reservoirs across southeastern Oklahoma were several feet below normal. Broken Bow Lake fell 8 feet below its normal capacity.
Only a minor storm system late in the month prevented November from entering the record books as the direst in state history. According to preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the statewide average precipitation total was 0.25 inches, 2.26 inches below normal and ranked as the fifth driest since records began in 1895. The southeast experienced its driest November on record at more than 4 inches below normal. The Mesonet sites at Beaver, Boise City, Buffalo, Hooker, Slapout and Woodward recorded no precipitation during the month. Jay recorded 2.34 inches to lead the Mesonet. The climatological fall (August-November) precipitation pattern varied wildly across the state, from the 13th wettest on record in the southwest to the 30th driest in the southeast. The statewide average was 6.1 inches to rank as the 31st driest fall on record, nearly 3.5 inches below normal. The January-November period was the 18th wettest on record, however, nearly 3 inches above normal.
November finished as the 13th warmest on record with a statewide average temperature of 52.5 degrees, 3.2 degrees above normal. Outside of the Panhandle, freezing weather was infrequent. Many stations across the southern half of the state spent less than 20 hours below freezing for the month. Newport, located in Carter County, spent 3 hours at or below freezing. Eva in northern Texas County led the state at 85 hours. Beaver recorded the lowest November temperature with a reading of 16 degrees on the 19th. The fall season finished decidedly warm with a statewide average of 62.6 degrees, 1.8 degrees above normal to rank as the 29th warmest on record. The first 11 months of the year were the 11th warmest such period on record, nearly 2 degrees above normal.
Drought increased dramatically across Oklahoma through the month. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the area of the state in drought increased from 3 percent at the end of October to 40 percent at the end of November. Another 32 percent of the state was considered abnormally dry, a drought precursor. More than 19 percent of the state’s drought coverage was considered moderate in intensity, while another 20 percent was labeled as severe. About 1 percent was in the extreme category. The Drought Monitor’s intensity scale slides from moderate-severe-extreme-exceptional, with exceptional being the worst classification.
The December precipitation outlook from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) indicated a clear bullseye of increased odds for below normal precipitation located directly over Oklahoma. There was no definite indication in the temperature outlook. CPC’s December Drought Outlook showed drought persisting based on November’s final Drought Monitor map, and possible development across the western half of Oklahoma.