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Warm, dry spring may mean drought is on its way

A June sunset at Lake Hefner. Wednesday marks the first full day of summer. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

A June sunset at Lake Hefner. Wednesday marks the first full day of summer. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Wednesday marks the first full day of summer, but in Oklahoma, the heat has already set in.

The western part of the state already has seen triple-digit temperatures, and residents in the Oklahoma City metro area were treated to heat index values upwards of 110 degrees last weekend.

In Oklahoma, those temperatures aren't unusual for this time of year, said state climatologist Gary McManus.

“June is generally a summer month," McManus said.

Although the weather the state has seen over the past two weeks isn't abnormally hot, Wednesday marks the end of a spring that has been warmer and drier than usual.

Forecasters expect that warming trend to continue through the summer. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center forecasts increased chances for above-average temperatures in Oklahoma and across most of the rest of the country through the end of September.

If that warmth is paired with drier-than-usual conditions, it could put the state in a difficult position going into the summer, McManus said. Oklahoma generally counts on rainfall during its wettest period — mid to late spring — to keep drought at bay during the hottest parts of the summer. But the past six weeks have been drier than usual, McManus said, meaning lawns are already beginning to brown and ponds are beginning to dry up.

“It's not a good situation," McManus said. "We do need a lot of rainfall over the next few weeks to get us through July and August."

Only a small part of south-central Oklahoma is in drought, according to a U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday. But the report categorizes parts of western, north-central and southeastern Oklahoma as abnormally dry — a designation that, in this case, indicates those areas could be headed for drought, McManus said.

But help could be on the way. Rain is in the forecast this weekend for much of the state. NOAA's Weather Prediction Center forecasts five-day rainfall totals of an inch or more in northwestern and far southwestern Oklahoma, with more meager totals elsewhere in the state.

Silas Allen

Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri. Read more ›