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November Feels Winter Chill

Published: Monday, December 2, 2019
November’s weather was somewhat tame by Oklahoma’s standards, with cold weather dominating the headlines. Several intrusions of arctic air blasted the country during November, and Oklahoma caught the edges of the frigid weather each time. Along with that cold came a mostly dry month across a droughty western Oklahoma. Heavy rains fell across the eastern half. There was a bit of snow across far northern Oklahoma – totals of 2-4 inches were observed in the Panhandle. A couple of thunderstorms in the east managed to exceed severe limits during the month’s final two days; wind and hail being the main threats. An outbreak of wildfires occurred on Nov. 26 when a strong storm system moved through the state, kicking winds up to over 60mph. Interacting with low humidity and temperatures in the 70s and 80s, those winds allowed fires to spread rapidly, prompting evacuations and widescale emergency response efforts. In addition, more than 15,000 residences and businesses were without power due to the high winds.

According to preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the statewide average temperature was 46.4 degrees, the 38th coolest November since records began in 1895. The highest recorded temperature of 81 degrees occurred twice – at Buffalo on the ninth and Waurika on the 19th. The Mesonet site at Eva fell to minus 4 degrees on the 12th for the lowest temperature of the month. The wind chill dropped below zero 39 times at the Mesonet’s 120 sites, with Eva’s minus 17 degrees on the 12th setting the low mark. The climatological fall (September-November) ended as the 53rd warmest on record, 0.4 degrees above normal. The first 11 months of the year were 0.3 degrees below normal, the 57th coolest January-November on record.

As has been the case in recent months, the heaviest precipitation fell across eastern portions of the state while the western half was left mostly dry. Totals ranged from 4-6 inches across the east. The western half received 1-2 inches in general, but north central and northwestern sections saw less than an inch. The statewide average was 2.55 inches, 0.04 inches above normal to rank as the 45th wettest November on record. Mt. Herman led all Mesonet sites with 7.79 inches. Eva received 0.36 inches for the lowest total. The fall season matched November’s pattern; it was generally dry across western Oklahoma and exceedingly wet across the east. The September-November statewide average was 10.04 inches, 0.46 inches above normal to rank the 41st wettest fall on record. The year continues on pace to be one of the top 10 wettest in state history. The January-November statewide average of 43.84 inches ranked as the seventh wettest on record with a surplus of 9.4 inches, and is already the eighth wettest calendar year on record. Northeastern Oklahoma shattered its annual record total with a month to spare. That area’s average January-November total was 61.65 inches, 21.33 inches above normal. The previous record annual total was 57.82 inches from 1973.

Given the ongoing dry weather across western Oklahoma, drought managed to increase and intensify during November. Drought coverage increased from 8% at the end of October to 13% at the end of November according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The area in severe drought increased from 1% to 4%, predominantly in the western Panhandle. The main feature of the December temperature and precipitation outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) was greatly increased odds of above normal temperatures across the Southern Plains – including Oklahoma. The precipitation outlook called for equal chances of above-, below- and near-normal moisture in the state. CPC’s December drought outlook indicated persistence of drought in those areas where it was noted in November’s final Drought Monitor map.