Central Oklahoma has joined many parts of rural Oklahoma as being classified in “extreme drought” in weather parlance, the second worst drought condition possible on the U.S. Drought Monitor, said Gary McManus, Associate State Climatologist for the Oklahoma Climatological Survey
The only level higher is “exceptional drought.”
The average rainfall recorded in central Oklahoma over the most recent 120-day span that period stands at 2.42 inches, 5.88 inches below normal. That makes it the driest period on record.
According to descriptions offered by the Drought Monitor, in rural areas extreme drought is marked by “major crop/pasture losses” or “widespread water shortages or restrictions.” Water restrictions are not occurring at this time, although reports of empty or near-empty farm ponds are becoming widespread.
Emergency assistance for livestock water will be necessary if the dry conditions persist for much longer, he said.
Additionally, over the last five weeks, Oklahoma experienced unusual warmth and increased evaporation. Factors have helped to coax plants and trees out of dormancy early. These factors have accelerated the drought’s progress by increasing the loss of available soil moisture, he said.
Those moisture demands, as well as those from human consumption, will increase further as the spring season continues.
Another impact of continued drought is the possibility of an extended spring wildfire season. Normally, the green-up that occurs during spring tends to suppress wildfire danger. Continued drought would result in more dormant and dead vegetation, providing more fuel for wildfires, McManus said.