Drought flourishes during hot, dry June

Drought flourishes during hot, dry June
Gary McManus
Associate State Climatologist
Oklahoma Climatological Survey

The meager amount of rain that managed to fall on Oklahoma during June was no match for the extreme heat and wind that was so prevalent for much of the month. The statewide average rainfall total for June was 1.17 inches, more than 3 inches below normal and the fourth driest June on record dating back to 1895. Southwestern Oklahoma suffered through its driest June on record with an average of 0.52 inches. Add heat to the equation and you have the ingredients for drought intensification. That is exactly what occurred during what became the second warmest June on record. The statewide average temperature finished seven degrees above normal at 83.5 degrees, second only to 1953’s 84.6 degrees. For southwestern and west central Oklahoma, where high temperatures averaged more than 100 degrees during the month, it was the warmest June on record. Altus’ average high temperature of 104.8 degrees is the highest recorded by the Mesonet for any month. Temperature records for the network began in 1997. Grandfield was a close second at 104.4 degrees.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map released on June 30 indicates 33 percent of Oklahoma – virtually the entire western third of the state – is experiencing exceptional drought, the highest designation on the drought intensity scale. Severe-to-exceptional drought covers nearly 56 percent of the state. Eastern Oklahoma had been drought-free through much of May and June but it too succumbed to the intense heat and wind. Moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions continue to intensify and now cover the eastern half of Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Mesonet site at Seiling led the state’s precipitation totals with 4.77 inches. The Mesonet sites at Ketchum Ranch and Grandfield had the lowest totals at a hundredth of an inch. Of the 120 Mesonet sites, 36 had less than a half-inch of rainfall during what is normally Oklahoma’s second wettest month. Grandfield was the warmest location in the state with an average temperature of 89.9 degrees, the third highest average recorded by the Mesonet for any month. Kenton enjoyed the state’s coolest weather with an average of 76 degrees. The highest temperature of the month was 115 degrees at both Erick and Hollis on the 26th. The lowest reading was 49 degrees at Kenton on the eighth. The average wind speed at Hobart during June was 17.7 mph. That is the highest average wind speed ever measured for any month by the Oklahoma Mesonet. Wind measurements began in 1994. Seven of the top 20 monthly average wind speeds recorded by the Mesonet occurred during June 2011.

The outlooks for July from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center are noncommittal for the most part with only a slightly increased chance of above normal temperatures in the southwestern third of the state, including the Panhandle. July and August are the warmest and second warmest months of the year in Oklahoma, respectively, and the two driest non-winter months. Until Oklahoma moistens up again with significant rainfall, the heat and drought will continue to feed one another and keep both in the extreme category. Pending that time, the severe impacts from this drought will continue.

PDF: The latest U.S. Drought Monitor Map, released on Thursday, June 23

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