The moisture cooled temperatures off enough to give us an overnight low of 77 degrees, but today promised to kick us back up to around 105.
This will be Altus’ 75th consecutive day with highs of 100 degrees or higher. Altus’ record is 77 days, set back in 1988. If the current trend continues, a new record could be set on Friday when the high temperature is predicted to reach 106.
Needless to say, a heat advisory is still in effect through 10 p.m. Friday for Jackson County, as well as the rest of Southern Oklahoma and Western North Texas.
Due to increased humidity, expect afternoon heat index values between 105 and 110 degrees.
Because most locations have seen highs above 90 degrees every day for more than two months, the heat is taking an increasing toll with each hot day that passes. Therfore, the risk of heat related illness continues to be very high. Avoid or greatly reduce outdoor work and other activities, stay indoors as much as possible, and drink plenty of water.
According to data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the statewide average temperature during July came in at 89.1 degrees, more than 7 degrees above normal. High temperatures alone were nearly 9 degrees above normal at 102.9 degrees. The National Climatic Data Center’s statewide average for July stands at 88.9 degrees with data still being collected. Both values shattered the country’s previous record of 88.1 degrees held by another legendary hot month in Oklahoma, July 1954.
The extreme heat is being fueled by one of the worst short-term droughts in state history. The drought’s beginnings date back to August 2010 but intensified beginning in the fall under the influence of La Niña. That climate phenomenon, marked by cooler than normal water temperatures in the eastern equatorial pacific, often means drier weather for the southern United States. The statewide average precipitation total of 16.73 inches since October 1, 2010, is the driest on record at nearly 14 inches below normal. Parts of southwestern Oklahoma have seen less than 6 inches of rain over that 10-month period.
The loss of soil moisture and green vegetation has combined with the summer sun to bake the state unmercifully. July was the hottest month in Oklahoma City’s history, dating back to 1890. At 75 days through Sunday, Grandfield is quickly approaching the state’s all-time record for days with highs above 100 degrees. The record is 86 days, set at Hollis in the drought-fueled summer of 1956. Unfortunately, the heat has only intensified during the first week of August. The Mesonet has recorded a statewide average temperature of 92.1 degrees over the month’s first seven days with an average high of 107 degrees and an average low of 77 degrees. The state remains on course to record its warmest summer as well. The statewide average temperature for the summer thus far is 87 degrees, easily outpacing the current record of 85.2 degrees from 1934.
Unfortunately, widespread relief has yet to appear on the horizon. The latest seasonal drought outlook from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) calls for drought to persist or intensify in Oklahoma through the end of October. Farther out, the news is just as troubling. While the La Niña event faded in late spring, the CPC issued a La Niña watch last week for possible development once again this winter. The possibility of extending the current drought further would be very bad news for a state already hit hard by the heat and a lack of rainfall.