In February, Oklahoma finally received a month worthy of winter. It wasn’t tremendously cold, nor was it excessively wet, but it did provide much of Oklahoma with its first decent snow of the season. A strong storm system passed through the state on February 5 and dropped sleet, freezing rain, and 4-6 inches of snow along and around the Interstate 44 corridor. Higher totals of 6-8 inches were reported in the southwest, with a few localized areas receiving as much as 10 inches. There were other minor winter systems throughout the month, but none that packed the punch of the February 5 storm. For the cool season through February, all of Oklahoma has had at least a trace of snow. Portions of northwestern Oklahoma and the western Panhandle have received more than a foot of snow. Severe weather was rare during February, other than some storms in the southeast on the 18th that had large associated with them.
According to preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the statewide average temperature was 41.6 degrees, half of a degree below normal to rank as the 68th coolest February dating back to 1895. That statewide reading was influenced by below normal temperatures in the far southwest, as well as sustained frigid conditions in the far western Panhandle; readings there were 2-3 degrees cooler than normal. The month’s high temperature of 83 degrees was recorded at three different Mesonet sites on February 2. The lowest temperature of 1 degree came just four days later at Tipton. Buoyed by unusual warmth during December and January, the climatological winter (December-February) was significantly warm at 42.3 degrees, 2.8 degrees above normal and ranked as the 10th warmest on record. February’s highest and lowest temperatures also served as winter’s extremes. The first two months of the year ranked as the 28th warmest such period on record at 41.9 degrees, 2.1 degrees above normal.
There were some hefty rainfall totals during February, but those were uncommon. Heavy rainfall for the month was concentrated in the most likely area; far southeastern Oklahoma had totals from 4-6 inches, with the Mt. Herman Mesonet site leading the way at 6.02 inches. The driest area also came as no surprise. The far western Panhandle station of Kenton had the lowest total with 0.26 inches. Most surpluses and deficits were within a half-inch of normal. Combined, the statewide average was 1.81 inches, just 2 hundredths below normal to rank as the 45th wettest February since 1895. Of the Mesonet’s 120 sites, 41 recorded less than an inch of moisture for the month. Winter ended as the 28th wettest on record, but only 0.85 inches above normal with a statewide average of 6.3 inches. Cloudy led all sites with 14.46 inches of rainfall for the season. Kenton had the lowest winter total of 1.06 inches. The first two months of 2020 were the 10th wettest January-February on record at 5.25 inches, 1.86 inches above normal.
Oklahoma’s drought coverage was cut nearly in half through February according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The amount of drought stood at 8.03% at the end of January, but had dropped to 4.66% by the end of February. An even larger reduction occurred since the start of climatological winter on December 1, when drought covered 14.27% of the state. All of the drought over the last three months occurred across the western one-third of the state. The amount of the state in at least “abnormally dry” conditions – areas in drought and additional parts possibly headed towards drought – fell from 35% to 13% through winter. The March temperature outlook from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) indicates increased odds for above normal temperatures across all of Oklahoma, but those odds are greater in eastern Oklahoma. The precipitation outlook shows enhanced chances of below normal precipitation across the northwestern quarter of the state, but above normal across far eastern Oklahoma. CPC expects the existing drought to persist in the state through March, but no new development is anticipated.