Despite Dire Forecasts….The Drought Is Decreasing

Coming out of the hottest summer ever, and one of the driest, it was easy to look at Oklahoma’s drought situation and expect that we would see no improvement going into winter.  Long range forecasts (including mine) all called for the drought to remain strong through the fall and winter.  This was based on a forecast that La Nina would, like last winter, be impacting Oklahoma’s weather.  Current observations show that weak La Nina conditions are present in the Pacific, and models show this should remain to be the case through the winter.  But in Oklahoma we’ve seen our share of wet weather systems moving through the southern Plains over the last two months.  In fact, drought conditions has improved greatly.  Take a look at the comparison of the Drought Monitor for early August, and the most recent one in late November:

Notice how the exceptional drought in bright red, the highest level of drought, covered about two-thirds of Oklahoma in August.

This is the most current report showing the exceptional drought now only covers northwest Oklahoma and parts of the panhandle.  There are parts of eastern Oklahoma that a few months ago were in an extreme drought, but now are not in drought conditions at all.  So why the improvement, and will it continue?  I wish I had an easy answer.  Perhaps a weak La Nina is not enough to keep the drought persistent in Oklahoma.  As to whether this wetter trend will continue, I say ride the trend until it proves otherwise.  Weather forecasting, especially long-range forecasting is based on trends.  I like our current trend of wetter than average weather.  Maybe there’s some subtle pattern shift out there that will return us to a drier pattern, but right now I don’t see it.

Rick

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