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December, Year Warmer and Drier Than Normal

December, Year Warmer and Drier Than Normal
Gary McManus, Associate State Climatologist
Oklahoma Climatological Survey

December tried to end 2010 in a tranquil manner after a year’s worth of tumultuous weather. Mother Nature provided a punctuation mark instead as a strong tornado touched down near Westville in Adair County on New Year’s Eve. The tornado eventually traveled into Arkansas, killing three near the small town of Cincinnati. A less violent hazard – drought – dug its heels into most of the state during the month as lack of precipitation contributed to the 32nd driest December since records began in 1895. Statewide average temperatures were a bit above normal as well but the month still finished as the 58th coolest on record.

While southeastern Oklahoma managed to finish with a bit of a moisture surplus, most of the state collected a meager 20-40 percent of normal for the month. The statewide average ended with a deficit of over an inch with a total of 0.91 inches according to the Oklahoma Mesonet. The southeast led the state with an average total of nearly 4 inches, but the deficit in that area was also a little less than an inch. The southwest barely registered precipitation at all with an average total of 0.09 inches, a deficit of 1.29 inches and the eighth driest December on record for that part of the state. The Mesonet site at Mt. Herman led the way with 4.03 inches of rainfall while Altus went rainless for the entire month. In fact, most of the northwestern two-thirds of the state received less than a half-inch of rainfall.

The statewide average temperature was 39.3 degrees, 0.3 degrees above normal. Regionally, much of eastern Oklahoma was 1-4 degrees below normal and much of western Oklahoma was 1-4 degrees above normal. The southwest enjoyed its 46th warmest December on record while the southeast experienced its 46th coolest. The highest temperature of the month, 83 degrees, was recorded at Hollis and Tipton on the 15th and at Waurika on the 20th. The coldest reading of zero degrees occurred on the 31st at Kenton and Boise City.

The somewhat warm and dry December contributed to the 43rd driest and 37th warmest year on record for Oklahoma. The statewide average temperature was 60 degrees, 0.4 degrees above normal. The northeast finished right at normal while west central Oklahoma was one degree above normal for the year. The rest of Oklahoma fell somewhere in between. The statewide average rainfall total was 31.99 inches, 4.7 inches below normal. Not all areas of the state finished equally, however. The southeast had a deficit of 12.29 inches for their 17th driest year on record while the Panhandle fell to 0.49 inches below normal, the 51st wettest year for that area.

The highest temperature recorded by the Mesonet during 2010 was 109 degrees at Freedom on August 2 and 13. On the cold side, -6 degrees was recorded at Buffalo on January 8 and at Vinita on January 10. Miami recorded the most rainfall with 48.26 inches while Boise City brought up the rear at 15.01 inches.

The tornado on the year’s final day brought the preliminary total for the year to 102, the third-highest tally behind 1999’s 145 and 1957’s 107.