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Extreme Weather

Written by Dick Pryor on Tuesday August 23, 2011

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Get ready for many more years of wild weather in Oklahoma. That was the warning from our guests this week after wrapping up our discussion of extreme weather.

Consider that this year Oklahoma has had a record low temperature (-31 in Nowata), has set the U.S. record for highest average temperature in a month (the average temperature in July was 89.1, obliterating the old record that had stood since 1954 by a full degree), record snowfalls (more than 24 inches in northeastern Oklahoma), exceptional drought (actually worse that the droughts in the 1930's and 1950's) and a record number of tornadoes for the month of April. Associate State Climatologist Gary McManus also reminds us that Oklahoma has had nine (9) significant ice events in the last eleven years, where normally we have one (1) every ten years.

McManus was one of three weather and climate experts on this week's Oklahoma Forum program. The others were Stephen Stadler, State Geographer for Oklahoma and Physical Geography Coordinator at Oklahoma State University and Simon Brewer, who is a meteorologist, Stormchaser and Co-host of "Storm Riders" on the Weather Channel.

The drought and high temperatures (Oklahoma City is closing in on the record for number of 100 degree days in year) is obviously causing hardships for farmers and ranchers, but it affects everyone in one way or another. The drought has caused the soil to lose a considerable amount of moisture. In addition, with use of water spiking for lawn and garden watering (something that was not prevalent in the 1930's), there is a risk of long-term damage to the soil and vegetation, including old growth trees.

McManus said although some of our extreme weather is cyclical, the climate is indeed changing. He told us there is really no dispute about that in the scientific community; the overwhelming majority of scientists sees our climate as evolving long-term, with the heating of our environment causing weather patterns to change. Brewer said our practice of steadily pumping carbon dioxide into the air is fueling the changes. And, he said, when various factors align just right (as they did in February in Nowata), record-breaking extreme weather can be the result.

Until next time,

Dick Pryor

(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Gary McManus, Stephen Stadler, Simon Brewer)


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