Oklahoma's winter weather is anyone's guess, climatologists say
Summer is slowly fading in the Sooner State, but climatologists at this point have no idea what kind of winter weather to expect.
So far the year has been warmer than usual — 1.7 degrees warmer on average for January through August, according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.
That makes 2016 the 11th-warmest year since weather records started being kept in 1890.
It has been a wet year for much of the state, and tropical moisture in the southeast put summer rainfall totals about 3 inches over the average for the area.
But the northeast portion of the state had its 28th-driest year on record, making the statewide average rainfall just under 24 inches, or about an inch below normal, according to the survey.
The U.S. Drought Monitor's latest map, released Thursday, shows 48 percent of the state under abnormally dry conditions.
Whether those dry areas will be dampened this month is yet to be seen, with models giving equal chances of rainfall at above or below normal, according to the survey, but the Climate Prediction Center's outlook predicts drought will improve after the rainy start to the climatological autumn.
“It's not saying it'll be normal, just that there's the same chances it'll be normal, above normal or below normal,” said Gary McManus, state climatologist.
“We had originally expected a La Nina to occur, which would sway us toward a warmer and drier cool season, but that prediction is starting to look a little more iffy,” he said.
“It's about a 55 to 60 percent chance that we'll see the La Nina develop. The federal forecasters think if it does happen, it'll be a weaker one,” McManus said
A La Nina is an ocean atmosphere oscillation that means the surface temperature of the eastern-central Pacific Ocean near the equator will be 3 to 5 degrees Celsius cooler than usual.
“A mild winter the previous year does not mean the following winter will be harsher or wetter,” McManus said.
“This winter is its own. We can't tell what it's going to be like from what the summer was like or the fall will be like. If we get three or four bad snowstorms, people think it's a bad winter. If we don't get any snowstorms, people think it was a milder winter, even if temperatures were colder than average,” he said.
“Climatology for winters in Oklahoma is greatly varied. You can get everything. The short end of it is there is nothing really pointing us toward any particular type of long-range weather pattern heading into the fall and winter at this time,” McManus said.
“Whatever comes, that's what's going to happen. I know that's not a really good way to put it, but without any climactic factors I'm afraid once we get into the next set of long-range outlooks, we're going to see a lot more blank spaces around Oklahoma, meaning we're not going to see more dry areas or wetter areas,” he said