Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist
Spring is trying to arrive in Oklahoma with several rounds of alternating warm and cold weather recently. Much of the state received a bit of snow last week but moisture totals were very small. The calendar says that winter is officially over this week and spring-like temperatures are forecast in the coming days and maybe here for good. Warmer temperatures, low humidity, dry conditions and wind mean that wildfire risks are very high now.
The drought conditions impacting the region will become much more apparent in the coming weeks. The Oklahoma Mesonet system shows that precipitation over the past 120 days averages 44 percent of normal across the state. All regions of the state are dry with some much drier than others. The east-central region has received 62 of normal precipitation, the most of any region of the state, while the Panhandle has received just 14 percent of normal since mid-November.
According to the Drought Monitor, nearly 92 percent of Oklahoma is abnormally dry or worse with over 56 percent of the state in D3 (Extreme Drought) and D4 (Exceptional Drought). The Drought Severity and Coverage Index (DSCI) for Oklahoma currently is at 321 (out of a maximum of 500). The Oklahoma DSCI was at 67 in mid-September 2021.
The latest Seasonal Drought Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center predicts continued drought conditions across most of the western U.S., with the exception of the Pacific Northwest (see map below). This includes all of Oklahoma except the eastern tier counties. The weather patterns we are experiencing are consistent with the current La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean. La Niña conditions are forecast to persist into the summer thus increasing the likelihood of continuing drought conditions.