December provided a fitting end to Oklahoma’s tumultuous 2022 weather story. This final chapter came complete with a half-dozen tornadoes, the coldest December day in 32 years, and the finishing touches on an all-time Oklahoma rainfall record. The Oklahoma Mesonet site at Goodwell finished 2022 with 6.48 inches of rain, breaking the previous all-time lowest annual rainfall record for any location in Oklahoma of 6.53 inches from Regnier in 1956. Those data go back to the late 1880s. The site recorded a hundredth of an inch during December, a paltry amount that helped solidify its claim on the dubious honor. While December finished just a tad above normal temperature-wise statewide, that parameter’s big story was the mid-month blast of frigid air that originated within the Arctic Circle in Siberia. The classic Blue Norther barreled down the lee of the Rockies and plunged all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, dropping temperatures below zero in Oklahoma and producing widespread wind chills in the minus teens and twenties. Dec. 23 was the coldest of the 3-4 day frosty visit with a statewide average temperature of 10.8 degrees, the lowest of any December day since 1990’s Dec. 22 value of 6.5 degrees. December also saw at least six tornadoes touch down during the month, including two EF2 rated twisters in central Oklahoma. One EF2 tornado touched down near Wayne and damaged trees, power lines, and structures within the town. The other EF2 tornado struck a home north of Cox City causing significant damage to the structure. The additional December tornadoes bring Oklahoma’s preliminary 2022 total to 57, closely matching the 1950-2021 annual average of 57.2.
The statewide average precipitation total for the month was 1.85 inches, 0.26 inches below normal and ranked as the 47th wettest December since records began in 1895. Sallisaw had the highest total with 4.52 inches for the month, while Eva and Hooker brought up the rear with no measurable precipitation. Four other Panhandle locations also received less than a tenth of an inch. The 2022 statewide average finished at 29.42 inches, 6.94 inches below normal and ranked as the 31st driest year since records began in 1895. The Panhandle was particularly dry during 2022 at 7.57 inches below normal, their fourth driest year on record. Localized annual deficits ranged from 6-12 inches over most of the state. The only surpluses occurred in far east central Oklahoma where heavy rains led to amounts 6-10 inches above normal for the year. The Mesonet site at Sallisaw led the state for 2022 with 58.28 inches of rain.
The statewide average temperature was 40.2 degrees, 0.1 degrees above normal and ranked as the 57th warmest December since records began in 1895. Temperatures ranged from 83 degrees at Tipton on Dec. 5 to minus 7 degrees at Talala and Vinita on Dec. 22, and again at Foraker and Vinita on Dec. 23. Wind chill values plummeted during the late-month arctic blast, dropping to a 2022-low of minus 33.2 degrees at Hooker on Dec. 22. That was one of 292 wind chill values that fell below zero during the month at the Mesonet’s 120 sites, and one of 21 below minus 25 degrees. The year finished with a statewide average of 61.1 degrees, 0.7 degrees above normal and ranked as the 19th warmest on record. The highest temperature of 2022 was 115 degrees at Mangum back on July 19, and the lowest was -12 degrees at Kenton on Feb. 4. The highest heat index of 120 degrees occurred at Webbers Falls on June 12.
The drought’s coverage decreased only slightly during December—from 91.2% to 89.7%—according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, but its intensity had more robust improvements. Extreme and exceptional drought fell from 64% at the end of November to 56% at the end of December. Those two categories covered only 22% of the state at that same time in 2021, and peaked at 86% in October 2022. The Climate Prediction Center’s January 2023 drought outlook indicates drought is expected to persist through the month, but no new development is expected. CPC’s January 2023 temperature outlook shows increased odds for above normal temperatures across the entire state, but equal chances for above-, below- and near-normal precipitation.