By Gary McManus
The seemingly impenetrable heat wave and dry spell that had punished Oklahoma since early June continued through nearly all of July, giving Oklahoma the type of scorching hot weather unseen in the state since the brutal summers of 2011 and 2012. A strong cold front snuck through the heat dome’s defenses near the end of the month to bring some relief, but the damage was done. The combination of hot weather, a lack of significant moisture, and relentless sunshine combined to plunge Oklahoma into flash drought that had covered the entire state by the end of July. Farm ponds evaporated, soils dried out and baked, and vegetation of all types either went dormant or died, turning the state’s landscapes a sickly shade of yellow. Drought covered 31 percent of the state at the end of June according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, but coverage skyrocketed to 100 percent by the end of July. Wildfires increasingly became a problem as the arid weather persisted. One large fire northeast of Mooreland consumed more than 21,000 acres. Significant severe weather was largely absent during the month, although an EF-1 tornado managed to touch down near Broken Arrow that damaged homes and trees. That report brought the number of tornadoes during 2022 up to 41 according to preliminary data from the National Weather Service. The 1950-2021 average through July is 49.5, and the annual average is 57.2.
The statewide average temperature finished at 85.9 degrees according to preliminary date from the Oklahoma Mesonet, 4 degrees above normal and tying both 1998 and 2012 for the seventh warmest July on record. That mark remained far behind July 2011’s 89.2 degrees, which still stood as the warmest month of any month, any year, and any state since records began in 1895. This July’s temperature topped out at 115 degrees at Mangum on July 19, tying the Mesonet’s all-time highest reading with six other sites since it’s inception in 1997. Oklahoma had not seen a temperature that high since Kingfisher hit 115 back on Aug. 1, 2012. Oklahoma’s all-time highest recorded temperature of 120 degrees was set at three separate locations in 1936. The 19th was also the third time in Mesonet history that all 120 sites reached at least 100 degrees, sharing that honor with July 9 and 10, 2011. However, it was the first time all sites reached at least 103 degrees. Mesonet sites recorded temperatures of at least 110 degrees 72 times during July, and at least 105 degrees 594 times. The heat index soared even higher, hitting 119 degrees at Eufaula on July 8, and 118 degrees at Burneyville on July 20. The Mesonet observed heat index values of at least 110 degrees 383 times during the month. Lake Carl Blackwell had the month’s lowest reading at 58 degrees on the 19th. The first two months of summer stand as the 10th warmest on record, 3 degrees above normal, and the first seven months of the year came in as the 26th warmest, 0.6 degrees above normal.
The statewide average rainfall total ended at 1.79 inches for the month, 1.41 inches below normal and ranked as the 32nd driest July on record. The disparity in rainfall between northern and southern Oklahoma was striking, however. Southwestern, south central, and southeastern Oklahoma suffered through their 14th, 14th, and 8th driest Julys on record, respectively, while the Panhandle enjoyed its 42nd wettest. Totals ranged from 7.73 inches at Sallisaw to zero at Altus. In addition to Altus’ goose egg, nine other sites recorded less than a tenth of an inch of rainfall. Nineteen received at least 3 inches for the month. At the end of July, 20 Mesonet sites had failed to receive at least a quarter-inch of daily rainfall for more than 50 consecutive days, and nine had not received at least a tenth of an inch for the same span. The first seven months of the year ended as the 51st driest on record at 19.45 inches, 2.57 inches below normal.
The same hot and dry conditions that dominated most of June and July are expected to prevail once again in August. The August outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center call for increased odds of above normal temperatures across the entire state and below normal precipitation in all but the western Panhandle. CPC’s August drought outlook predicts drought persistence across the southern one-third of Oklahoma, but improvement across the northern two-thirds.
However, much of that improvement is based on the heavier rains that fell in late July.
By Gary McManus