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Dick Faurot's Year In Review: 2014-Setting A Record For Tornadoes

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Happy New Year!

Now that we have officially made it into 2015, thought a look back at 2014 would be in order. I will begin with a brief look at this past December as it was certainly noteworthy in several respects as well, not the least of which was the lack of sunshine. We wound up with less than half our normal sunshine as cloudy or mostly cloudy skies were the general rule with very few clear or even partly cloudy days making for a dreary December. Despite the cloud cover, total precipitation was below normal which continued a trend we have had off and on for more than four years now, more about that in a moment. Officially, we finished the month a little more than 1/2“ below normal with respect to precipitation.

Although the month probably will be remembered as a cool one, fact is it was actually much warmer than normal with an average temperature more than 3 degrees above the long term average. The reason is that although the clouds kept our days somewhat cooler than normal, they also kept our nights much warmer than normal; on average. The much warmer than normal nights more than made up for the slightly cooler than normal days and the end result is a warmer than normal average temperature for the month as a whole.

Now for the annual numbers, one of the most astonishing numbers to come out of 2014, on a statewide basis at least, was our severe weather over the past year; or, more specifically, the lack of severe weather. The total number of tornadoes statewide stands at 16 and although that is preliminary, it will probably be the official tally. Until this year, the record for fewest tornadoes was 17 set back in 1988. If you look at the first graph, this past year really stands out in comparison to the previous 4 years which have been among the most active on record. Notice that 1999 is still the record holder for most tornadoes in the state and the horizontal line is the long term average. By the way, these statistics only go back to 1950 as that is considered the start of a more complete record keeping system and the prior years are not nearly as accurate with regard to total tornado counts.

I mentioned earlier that December was drier than normal. That has continued a trend of below normal rainfall that goes all the way back to the fall of 2010 which is when the good folks at the OK Climate Survey consider to be the start of our current drought. For Tulsa, our total precipitation for the year was under 30” which is more than 11” below normal. Notice the second graph which shows a plot of Tulsa annual precipitation going back to 1888. As might be expected, there are lots of ups and downs from year to year but it is noteworthy that 7 of the last 10 calendar years here in Tulsa have been drier than normal.

With respect to temperatures, the calendar year of 2014 turned out to be cooler than normal with 6 of the past 12 months below normal. The months that were cooler were much cooler and the months that were warmer were only slightly warmer, so the year as a whole turned out to be cooler than normal. As you can see on the annual temperature graph which has records going back to 1905, the last two years have been cooler than normal which provide quite a contrast to 2012, which was far and away our warmest calendar year on record. Along with the cooler than normal temperatures we experienced about half the normal number of days with triple digit summer time temperatures; 7 as compared to the long term average of about 15.

That pretty well sums up this past year for the Tulsa area. For a more complete synopsis of the year on a statewide basis, I recommend checking out the excellent information provided by the good folks at the OK Climate Survey.

So, hope you and yours have a blessed and prosperous New Year whatever the weather may bring. After all, this is Oklahoma.

Dick Faurot

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