End of 2016 closes books on warm, dry year in Oklahoma
A cold, relatively dry December closed the books on a warm, dry year for Oklahoma.
Although Oklahoma avoided more dramatic weather events such as tornadoes and ice storms, in 2016, the state saw the return of a more subtle weather-related malady: drought.
About 72 percent of the state finishes the year in drought, with about 46 percent of it being in severe or extreme drought. This year's drought development was the result of a combination of below-average rainfall and unusually warm weather, said Oklahoma state climatologist Gary McManus.
“2016 will definitely be one of the warmest years on record for the state of Oklahoma," McManus said.
Most of the state saw below-average rainfall in 2016, according to records from the Oklahoma Mesonet weather network. East-central Oklahoma fared the worst, records show, finishing the year with about 73 percent of the rainfall it would receive in a typical year.
One exception to the overall dry trend is in southwestern Oklahoma, which saw its 19th wettest year on record. That region bore the worst effects of the drought that gripped the state from 2010-2015.
"They've sort of been spared during this episode," McManus said.
The warm trend wasn't limited to Oklahoma. In a report released last month, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the continental United States saw its warmest autumn on record.
From January to November, the entire country saw warmer-than-average conditions, with Alaska experiencing its warmest such period on record.
Climate scientists predict 2016 is likely to be the warmest year on record, breaking the previous record set in 2015.