April Winds Highest in Mesonet Era
Opinions on Oklahoma’s weather are often more variable than the weather itself. Some Oklahomans will look back on April 2022 and remember the seven confirmed tornadoes that touched down, although that is still below the long-term average of 11.7 for the month. Many others will remember drought that saw both intensification in the northwest and improvement across the southeast. There is one aspect of this April’s weather that would unite most Oklahomans, however—the wind. Already Oklahoma’s windiest calendar month climatologically, the seemingly unceasing gales howling day and night became a common point of exasperation. Data from the Oklahoma Mesonet lends credence to that frustration. Both the statewide average wind speed and maximum wind speed for this April were tops since Mesonet data began in 1994 at 12.2 mph and 22.9 mph, respectively. Previous top marks were held by 1996’s 12 mph and 2011’s 22.5 mph, again respectively. Those and other metrics point towards the month as the windiest April statewide in the Mesonet era. Fourteen of April’s 30 days saw non-thunderstorm wind gusts of at least 50 mph somewhere in the state, and nine days with at least 60 mph. Tipton and Slapout shared the highest wind gusts at 74 mph on April 5 and 22, respectively. The seven confirmed tornadoes brought 2022’s total to 12, still a bit below the long-term average of 16.5 for the first four months of the year.
It was largely a state divided on the rainfall maps, with areas to the southeast of Interstate 44 receiving a surplus of moisture while those to the northwest continued in prolonged dry conditions. Combined, the statewide average for the month was 2.7 inches, 0.89 inches below normal and ranked as the 43rd driest April since records began in 1895. The differing fortunes were emphasized by north central Oklahoma’s third driest ranking at 2.58 inches below normal, as opposed to east central Oklahoma’s ranking as 26th wettest with an average surplus of 1.69 inches. Mt. Herman led the Mesonet’s 120 sites with 8.98 inches of rain for the month. Erick went nearly the entire month with no rain, finishing with a paltry tenth of an inch. Twenty-seven sites reported more than 5 inches for the month while another 38 received less than an inch. The first four months of the year finished at 7.69 inches, the 42nd driest January through April on record, 1.94 inches below normal.
The statewide average temperature finished at 61 degrees, 1.5 degrees above normal and ranked as the 39th warmest April since records began in 1895. Temperatures soared at times, with 90s being recorded on 11 of April’s 30 days, and Oklahoma’s first triple-digit temperature of 2022 was recorded on the 29th at Altus at exactly 100 degrees. The heat was more concentrated across western Oklahoma where the drought has flourished with many locations 3-4 degrees above normal for the month. Eva dropped to 16 degrees on the 14th for the lowest recorded temperature. The first four months of the year were still below normal thanks to a frigid February at 46.9 degrees, a degree below normal and the 57th warmest such period on record.
While drought’s coverage decreased from 76% of the state at the end of March to 65% at the end of April, the two highest levels of drought—extreme and exceptional—increased from 34% to 39% according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The most intense category of drought, exceptional, increased from 8% to 11% over that same span, all across far western Oklahoma. Heavy rains forecast for early May could spell relief, however. The Climate Prediction Center’s May temperature and precipitation outlooks call for increased odds of above normal temperatures across the entire state and above normal precipitation in the eastern two-thirds of Oklahoma. CPC believes the expected early moisture, combined with the onset of the climatological wettest part of the year for most of the state, will lead to improvements in drought conditions in all but the western Panhandle through May.