Tornadoes, heat and drought mark 2012 weather
BY ALTHEA PETERSON World Staff Writer
Saturday, December 29, 2012
12/29/12 at 7:57 AM
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This past year will be a weather year remembered locally and statewide.
Gary McManus, an associate state climatologist for the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, said the state's tornadoes, extreme temperatures and lack of rainfall set the year apart.
With greater than normal temperatures and less than normal rainfall, 2012 was one for the record books, said Pete Snyder, a meteorologist in the Tulsa office of the National Weather Service.
"It was an extraordinary year," he said.
When April saw 52 tornadoes statewide - a record - 2012 seemed poised to surpass 2011's annual total of 119 tornadoes.
Instead, Oklahoma has had only one tornado since June, McManus said.
"There's not many storms, so not much severe weather, so no tornadoes," he said. "You can still have that type of weather during a drought, but this year, we just haven't had the storms.
"We had a drought of tornadoes to go along with our precipitation drought."
Tulsa County will end the year classified as D3 in areas for extreme drought and D4 in other areas for exceptional drought, the highest classifications on the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Snyder said Tulsa reported 24.41 inches of rainfall as of Dec. 27.
If the numbers hold, the amount represents the fourth-driest year on record.
Statewide, the drought situation is little improved from 2011, McManus said.
"We're not as bad as we were, but we're pretty bad off," he said.
During the year's first four months, Oklahoma had its 16th-wettest period on record for those months, McManus said.
However, since April, with only 12.9 inches of precipitation on average statewide, Oklahoma has had its driest period for those months.
"2011 was dry from January through September, and then it was fairly wet October through March," McManus said. "This year, it was wet January through March or April, then dry.
"Unfortunately, it really dried out in May."
If Tulsa's average temperature holds steady through year's end, 2012 will be the area's warmest year on record, with records dating to 1905.
"It's significant," Snyder said. "All of the right atmospheric conditions were in place."
When the National Climatic Data Center releases its numbers, McManus said, it likely will be confirmed that Oklahoma experienced its warmest year on record, as well.
"We got a big head start in the beginning of the year," McManus said. "The only month below normal was October."
This, combined with the lack of moisture, led not just to higher temperatures but also to higher wildfire danger, McManus said.
"It produced an earlier season for vegetation growth," he said.
"It was so warm and wet early that vegetation became fuel for fire in the summer months."
McManus said the area cannot afford to have a 2013 as hot and dry as the last two years have been.
"We can't suffer a third year in a row with a bad rain season," he said. "We had two bad springs in a row. The last two have produced horrible summers, horrible droughts."
History allows for some optimism, however, he said.
"Just going by climatology, we'll have spring in a few months. That's when we can expect to have good rains across the state.
"Historically, as we look toward the springtime, hope should exist."
State weather milestones 2012, by the numbers
12: Average rainfall inches total from January to April, the 16th-wettest such period on record.
12.9: Average rainfall in inches since April, the driest such period on record.
63.1: Average temperature this year. The record warmest average - 62.8 - was set in 1954.
52: Tornadoes in April, breaking April 2011's record of 50.
1: Tornadoes since June.
Note: Statistics are as of Dec. 27. To formulate a statewide average, information is recorded from 120 Oklahoma Mesonet sites, including at least one in each county.
Source: Oklahoma Climatological Survey
Tulsa temps, rainfall for 2012
64.9 degrees*: Average temperature, as of Dec. 28.
24.41 inches**: Rainfall, as of Dec. 27.
*If no change, would be warmest year on record.
**If no change, would be fourth-driest year on record.
Source: National Weather Service
A little bit of snow
Tulsa's white Christmas package arrived several days late.
Pete Snyder, Tulsa National Weather Service meteorologist, said that Tulsa recorded trace amounts of snow on Friday.
Tulsa's last measurable amount of snowfall was 1.2 inches on Feb. 13.
Combined with rain, Tulsa's Friday precipitation was 0.02 of an inch.
Althea Peterson 918-581-8361
The Arkansas River's lack of water in late August was a stark reminder that the area saw far too little precipitation in the summer of 2012. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World file
Firefighters tend to a damaged car Friday after a traffic accident at 11th Street and Memorial Drive. One person went to the hospital because of the crash, which took place during a light snowfall. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World