US Drought Monitor July 5, 2011--100% Drought

Okiedawn OK Zone 7July 7, 2011

It is a small change but a significant one. On this week's U. S. Drought Monitor Map, fully 100% of our state is now classified as being in drought. It really isn't a huge change....only 0.13% was not in drought last week.

I've linked the Oklahoma Drought Monitor map below. The worst areas, those in D-3 (Extreme Drought) and D-4 (Exceptional Drought) didn't change much, but partly that's because once you reach D-4 there's no way to show it is getting worse since D-4 is as bad as it gets. If you're in a D-4 area, the best way to monitor how much worse your area is getting is by checking your Keetch-Byram Drought Index numbers for your county, which update daily. If anyone wants to know how to do that, let me know and I'll show you how.

An oddity that has persisted in Love County for several weeks now is that we have four drought classifications in our county all at once. This week, we have D-0 (Abnormally Dry) in some parts of the the county and then varying degrees of drought from 'Moderate' to 'Severe' to 'Extreme' in other parts of the county. So, I guess if you live in our county, you may think the drought is horrific or not too bad or anywhere in between depending on where in the county you live.

One of these days I'll get to link it when it is showing improvement!


Here is a link that might be useful: Oklahoma Drought Monitor Map July 5, 2011

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Hey, Dawn,

When I went to the library yesterday to pick up the native garden books, the librarian told me that she heard Gary England say that it's neither el Nino nor la Nina that's causing the problem. He said there is nothing like that going on at the moment. It's simply HOT, and dry.

On the other hand, the west coast has had an abnormally long and very wet spring season that only began to warm up and dry out a couple of weeks ago.
I spoke to a friend in the high desert area of central WA who said they hadn't seen 70 degrees until then, and my mother in NorCal said the same thing. She got about 8" of snow 3 weeks ago! The snowfall levels in the high mountain ranges hit new record levels last winter, as we're seeing now from the flooding in several states. It's just been cold and rainy and snowing, and more cold and rainy for months. Personally, I think they should have to share at least some of it with us. Don't you? And maybe we could send them some of our heat?


    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 12:20PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


La Nina ended several months ago but its dryness did serve as a 'set up' for the weather we're exepriencing now. When it ended, I was hoping for a quicker return to normalcy, to the extent that Oklahoma weather ever approaches anything resembling normalcy. We are in what is considered a neutral period in the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation). Both El Nino and La Nina will influence our weather patterns during the period when they are active, and I often base planting decisions on the knowledge that an El Nino or a La Nina are occurring (when they are occurring) but they're only one of myriad influences on the weather patterns we have here and their influence can vary depending on other things that are going on.

In my county we have drought at least 8 summers out of 10 and sometimes every is just that in rainier summers the drought will persist for a few weeks instead of a few months.

This year reminds me a great deal of both the summer of 2003 (my county had less than 19" of rainfall that year) and the drought of 2005-2006, which I think had hotter weather than 2003 and more rainfall in each year, but not significantly more rain and not well-distributed rainfall. For example, we thought our 2005 drought had broken when we had 9.25" of rainfall in one day in April 2006, but by late June, all that moisture was gone, it was in fact only a distant memory, drought had returned and wildfires were occurring. The 2006 drought was horrendous and for us it didn't really, truly end until the floods began in 2007.

I don't know how much this is true of the rest of Oklahoma because I've only lived here, but it seems like we rarely have normal, moderate weather, only extreme weather. We tend to be extremely dry for long periods of time and then suddenly we'll be extremely wet. The drought of 2003 really ended for us beginning in May 2004 when maybe 6 or 8" of rain fell in that month, but then it really and truly ended for sure when we had over a foot of rainfall in June. A foot of rain! You can't do much with that much water in such a short time except stay out of its way. Suddenly, plants that had struggled to survive in rock-hard, heavily-compacted clay, were sitting in water for weeks and weeks and weeks.

Growing up in Texas, I was well familiar with the old folk saying "it takes a flood to end a drought" and I thought I knew what it meant. Then we moved to Oklahoma, and I quickly learned that both the droughts and floods we had experienced in Texas were child's play compared to what we experience here. However, since that time, a recurring drought pattern in Texas has been harder on them, especially last year and this year, than it has been on us here and has been much worse than anything I remember in Texas. I do remember 1980 was a horrible, dry, drought year in Texas but I don't think it was a dry as this year...although likely it was hotter. Fort Worth had well over 60 days of high temps at or over 100 degrees in 1980.

Since moving here 13 years ago, I've observed a general trend of more extreme swings from hot/dry to wet and back again. Look at just this year in Oklahoma: many areas had record snowfall in the winter and quite a few recorded their coldest temperatures ever. Then we had an abrupt swing to hot temps...some of us were below freezing and snowy for 5 consecutive days and then once we warmed up, we went from below-freezing daytime highs one day to the upper 70s the next and the snow quickly melted. That's not typical. We had extreme hail over and over, and several outbreaks of very strong tornadoes. Some folks in eastern and northeastern OK had several weeks where they had up to 6 or 8 or 10" of rain in one week while the rest of us went up to a month with no recorded spring rainfall. How odd is that? Many parts of the state have had extreme drought and extreme wildfires. It is only July! What other 'surprises' does the weather hold for us this year, or maybe we're all past the point of being surprised?

We've had some peculiar weather since moving here. For example, even though I grew up only 80 miles south of where I live now, I'd never experienced thundersnow or derecho winds until we moved here. Oklahoma is just full of surprises, and they aren't always pleasant surprises. I love this state and its people with my whole heart, but the weather can be quite vexing.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 1:05PM
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Hi Dawn,

I just came in from seeing that all the livestock has water, and then checked the official temp. It's 109 SW of Shawnee as I'm writing this. Heat index of 110. Maybe it will cycle back to something more normal next year, and maybe not. I guess we'll wait and see.

If I had to find one word for Oklahoma weather, I think I'd say 'impressive'. When it decides to do a sudden switch, or throw a storm, it does do it in bang-up style, doesn't it? The tornadoes have missed us, but not by much, and we lost the roofs from the barn, the big garage, and a few chicken pens last year when one of the storms came ripping through. Also lost half our chickens. I think they may have landed in Arkansas.

We did get quite a bit of snow this winter. It was at least 8-10" on the flats, with drifts to 3' and more, and it lasted a long time. We took a bunch of photos to send to my daughter's transplanted Okie relatives in Oregon.

Actually, I'm used to the extreme conditions we've had this year, and it's a big part of what's making it so hard for me to transition over to a more climate friendly style of gardening. Where I worked at the nursery in the Sacramento Valley, this would be perfectly normal. The rain quits by May of each year as a rule, and doesn't begin again until November. Naturally there are exceptions, like this year, when they've had nothing but rain. One year we got 120" of it.
At any rate, the summer temps during July and August often run from 104 to 112 and higher.
On the opposite end of the scale, the winters, as I said, can be really rainy and with a lot of snow. One year the snow got clear up to the eaves on the house. I had one tiny spot of a few inches at the window over the sink that still let in daylight. I felt like I was living in a cave. The dogs walked across the top of it and up onto the roof. We didn't think it would EVER melt, or that we'd get the cars out of the garage until summer. It finally did, but it took a really long time.

One of the things I love about Oklahoma (other than the people, of course) is the fact that it stays green all summer long. You can't imagine what a treat that is for someone who is used to looking at dry, barren summer hills and just waiting for a fire to start.

Another thing that has dumbfounded me is how prolific the gardens are. I have never seen anything like it. I had thought briefly of using a French intensive system in the veggie garden this year and I'm glad I didn't. I seem to have gotten it anyway. The peppers and beans are nearly normal size, but the squash and tomatoes are incredible. I can't even see the center of the squash patch, let alone be able to reach anything in there.

All in all, I'd say that Oklahoma's definitely OK! Goofy weather, clay soil and all.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 5:12PM
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Dear God Please Send Rain!

Our field crew took this picture on their way to filed data collection.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 5:12PM
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