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Drought Returns During Arid August

Published: Wednesday, September 1, 2021

A run of hot, dry weather finished off climatological summer in true Oklahoma fashion following a delightfully mild first two months of the season. There was very little in the way of severe weather during the month, just a smattering of hail and high wind reports scattered about the state. A hazard of another kind managed to flourish in the arid conditions, however, with drought once again gaining a toehold across parts of northwestern Oklahoma. The USDA indicated 43% of the state’s topsoil was considered short to very short of moisture by the end of the month. Reports of withered crops and depleted ponds began to multiply in areas plagued by the extended dry weather. Some areas had gone nearly 2 months without a single day with at least a quarter-inch of rainfall.

According to preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the statewide average precipitation total for the month finished at 2.44 inches, 0.79 inches below normal and ranked as the 51st driest August since records began in 1895. Deficits of 1-3 inches were common across the northern one-third of the state, while surplus amounts of 2-5 inches were found along Oklahoma’s southern border. Most sites fell below normal by 1-2 inches, in general. The Mesonet site at Hugo led the state with 7.63 inches during August, a surplus of 5.2 inches. Freedom brought up the rear with 0.24 inches, 2.7 inches below normal. The climatological summer—June 1 through Aug. 31—was 0.09 inches below normal statewide with an average of 10.6 inches, the 44th wettest such period on record. Significant dryness was evident across northern Oklahoma during summer with deficits of 3-6 inches common from the western Panhandle through north central regions. The Mesonet site at Cloudy in far southeastern Oklahoma led the summer months with 21.8 inches of rain for a surplus of 10.5 inches. Buffalo’s summer total of 3 inches was 6.1 inches below normal. The first 8 months of the year saw an average surplus of only 0.42 inches across the state at 25.67 inches, the 42nd wettest January-August on record.

The statewide average temperature came in at 80.8 degrees, exactly normal for the month and ranked as the 62nd warmest August since records began in 1895. Some areas of the state were significantly warmer than others. The Panhandle was 1.2 degrees above normal for the month, the 41st warmest August on record for that area of the state, while south central Oklahoma enjoyed their 43rd coolest at 1.1 degrees below normal. The month’s highest reading of 106 degrees occurred at Beaver and Hooker on the 24th and again at Alva on the 25th. Heat index values reached as high as 113 degrees at Okmulgee and Porter, and the Mesonet’s 120 sites recorded values of at least 110 degrees 86 times throughout the month. The lowest actual air temperature reading was 52 degrees from Kenton on Aug. 5. The summer finished at 79.4 degrees, 0.7 degrees below normal and ranked as the 48th coolest June-August period on record. The highest temperature of the summer was 107 degrees, reported at both Eva and Goodwell on June 23, and the lowest was Boise City’s 47 degrees back on June 2. The year remained solidly on the cool side at 61.1 degrees, 1.6 degrees below normal and the 34th coolest January-August on record.

Drought increased from just over 1% of the state at the end of July to nearly 5% to end August. The latest outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center show equal chances for above-, below-, and near-normal precipitation and temperature values across the entire state for September. Despite the lack of a clear signal, the threat of more hot, dry weather in early September brought concerns for more drought development. CPC’s September Drought Outlook deems drought development “likely” through much of the Panhandle into southwest Oklahoma, and northwestern down through east central Oklahoma. A larger area of existing drought in the northwest is expected to persist through the month.