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Fire Danger Growing as Dry Spell Carries On

Fire Danger Growing as Dry Spell Carries On

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I can’t remember the last time the Tulsa State Fair closed out with near-90° temperatures, but I daresay it happens very rarely. Late-season heat waves are not overly unusual, but the span of time we have spent with above-normal temperatures and a lack of rainfall doesn’t bode well for both our growing drought and fire danger concerns. While the edge may be taken off the heat as we start the work week, the more summer-like pattern remains the same.  Check out these temperatures from earlier in the day on Sunday. 90° readings extended to nearly the Canadian border ahead of that front!  We’re not only with this heat.

                A fast-moving cold front is barreling southward towards Oklahoma on this Sunday night, but the front will not have much cold air to spare by the time it reaches Green Country in the morning. We’ll notice a wind shift, but not a substantial drop in temperatures.  In fact, this front will act to stir up the winds further, lower the moisture levels in the air, and enhance the fire danger even further. At this point, only McCurtain County (far southeastern Oklahoma) is under a Burn Ban, but burning outdoors is highly discouraged Monday afternoon area-wide.

                Winds will become lighter into midweek with ample sunshine thanks to a benign northwesterly flow in the jet stream.  A series of cold fronts will make a run at the state in the next week, but the only one that appears significant arrives on Friday.  It may have just enough moisture to spawn a few showers and generate widespread cloud cover. While this front won’t latch onto any Arctic air (that would give us that crisp chill), it will drop our temperatures back to seasonable levels, which as a reminder, are usually lows near 50° and highs in the lower 70s.  In essence, our jackets might be more useful as you’d expect by mid-October.

                Even with the cool-down, fire danger won’t go down until we see a bigger pattern shift, allowing for widespread heavier rains.  There is a bit of good news on the distant horizon. The ridge in the jet stream to our west may be breaking down in a little over a week, allowing more moisture-laden storm systems to slide through the west and give us a few bouts of rain. See the second map. It’s a ways off, but a pattern that will become a lot more common in the coming months thanks to a strong El Niño.

                In case you’re wondering about fall foliage, it’s not clear if we’ll see spectacular or more mundane colors this season. Our pattern over the late summer with wetter conditions does bode well for colors, but the last month of hardly any significant rainfall is drying the vegetation up, perhaps leading to a more browner shade in the leaves. I’m no arborist though, so just take that with a grain of salt. I will say, however, this stretch of warm days may delay the shift to fall shades in the leaves a bit. That’s only one factor in the foliage, but early November will likely be our peak time as is often the case in Oklahoma.

                Enjoy the pleasant, albeit warm fall temperatures this week!  I’ll have more weather updates on Twitter: @GroganontheGO and on my Facebook page.

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