Story Credit: Jessie Christopher Smith, The Oklahoman. Oklahomans are still reeling from extreme conditions amid a record-breaking heat wave, after soaring temperatures Tuesday resulted in the hottest day of the year across the Oklahoma State.
The highest temperature, 116 degrees, was recorded in the township of Odell in Marshall County. A new daily record of 110 degrees was set in Oklahoma City and tied in Lawton at 114 degrees, records that had been set in 1936.
1936 was also the year the state reported its highest temperature ever ― 120 degrees. That record was set in the middle of the infamous Dust Bowl, a nearly decade-long period of the 1930s during which extreme drought, unusually high temperatures and heavy wind erosion devastated large parts of Oklahoma and Texas.
Oklahoma heat wave 2022:OKC hits 110 degrees, setting daily heat record
Current heat wave ‘still pales in comparison’ to 1930s Dust Bowl, 1950s drought
Gary McManus, a state climatologist with the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, said, as severe as recent temperatures have been, “there really is no comparison to the Dust Bowl.”
“We’ve had between 40 to 50 days of above-normal temperatures this year, extending from the late spring to here in the middle of summer,” McManus said. “And we did have that one extreme wave of heat here (Tuesday), but when we’re looking back in history, what we’re seeing right now in Oklahoma this summer would be a little sliver of the Dust Bowl drought.”
Only two other periods in the state’s history invite comparison to the Dust Bowl, climatologists say: the droughts of the 1950s and the early 2010s.
“The ’50s drought is, when it comes to the main body of the state, probably the drought of record for Oklahoma,” McManus said. “The Dust Bowl drought was really horrible for western Oklahoma and the High Plains, but the ’50s drought was really worse for much of Oklahoma overall. The major difference between the two droughts was that we’d learned a lot more about conservation practices for our farmers, so we didn’t really see the horrible erosion and those effects. It was the same type of heat, but it lasted about five years instead of 10.”
Experts worry current heat wave ‘sliding back into’ 2011-2012 drought patterns
A decade ago, extreme heat struck Oklahoma again, during a massive drought that ravaged the southern U.S. states. Oklahoma was among the hardest hit by the dry spell, which saw multiple wildfires burn an estimated 52,000 acres in July and August 2012.
“We haven’t had a drought like this (July) since 2011 and 2012, which was notoriously hot and dry,” said Wes Lee, agriculture coordinator at the Oklahoma Mesonet. “2012 was so extreme, it really was something you couldn’t compare to anything else. The impact that drought had on agriculture was devastating, and I’m concerned that maybe we’re sliding back into the same weather pattern as that.”
The city of Hollis saw 101 days of heat above 100 degrees in 2011, the longest consecutive streak of extreme heat the Oklahoma Mesonet had ever recorded. The severity of Tuesday’s record-breaking temperatures alarmed experts in weather and climate, as unprecedented levels of heat are being reported across the world.
When is the heat wave going to end?
Meteorologists do not expect current triple-digit temperatures to lessen until August, when the chances of potential precipitation return as autumn draws closer.
“We do see possibly a little bit of a weakening of that (index) as it flattens out over the next 6 to 10 days from (Wednesday),” McManus said. “As we get into the first part of August, we might see more storm systems allowed through and a little bit higher chances of rain.”
The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center showed increased odds of “above-normal precipitation” in its 8-to-14-day outlook. But increased odds of above-normal temperatures are also still in the forecast.
“We have to remember it’s not really a wet time of year, so ‘above-normal precipitation’ is not really anything to write home about,” McManus said. “But it’s certainly better than the much-below-normal precipitation that we’ve been seeing the last couple of weeks, and any chances of rain will certainly alleviate some of that heat.”
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Record-breaking OKC heat not expected to dip until August, experts say