February’s story of dry conditions with brief interruptions by periodic wintry weather was a continuation of the previous two months, and the statewide average precipitation total for the winter finished as the fifth driest on record at well more than 3 inches below normal.
For northeast Oklahoma, it was their driest winter on record with a December through February average total of 1.56 inches, more than four inches below normal. East central and central Oklahoma did not fare much better, with their second and fourth driest winters on record, respectively.
The dry weather allowed for uncharacteristic cool-season drought intensification. Normally a time for moisture recharge, this winter had enough dry, windy and occasionally warm days to allow for drought to spread throughout the period.
The U.S. Drought Monitor map from Dec. 3 had 30.9 percent of the map experiencing at least moderate drought and only 47.3 percent seeing at least abnormally dry conditions. February’s final map showed 62.4 percent of the state in at least moderate drought and 100 percent of the state in at least abnormally dry conditions.
The Drought Monitor’s intensity scale slides from moderate-severe-extreme-exceptional, with exceptional being the worst classification. Abnormally dry, while not a drought intensity itself, can signify areas that are going into or coming out of drought. In this case, it indicates the former.
The temperature outlook for March from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) indicated increased odds of below-normal temperatures across far northeastern Oklahoma, but no indication of below-, above- or near-normal temperature expectations for the remainder of the state.
The precipitation outlook gave no clear indication of expected precipitation patterns for any areas of Oklahoma. CPC’s U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook for March calls for drought to persist or intensify across the entire western half of the state and also over into northeastern Oklahoma.
Gary McManus is state climatologist at the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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