Extreme Heat Contributing To 'Flash Drought' In Oklahoma

Thursday, August 2nd 2012, 3:59 pm
By: News On 6

It was announced Wednesday that now half of the counties in the United States have been declared disaster areas due to drought.

So, while Oklahoma is not alone in suffering through drought, News on 6 meteorologist Mike Grogan said our extreme high temperatures are contributing to a "flash drought," which is adding insult to injury.

He said "flash drought" is a term used to describe the acceleration of drought due to extreme heat.

"Within a week, extreme drought went from covering 50% of Oklahoma to 71% of the state," Grogan said.

Grogan said Thursday's high temperature was getting very close to setting a long-standing record high.

"In the 1950s and, of course, the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s, we had similar, remarkable heat waves. Our all-time record high of 115 degrees was set back in the Dust Bowl (August 10, 1936)," Grogan said.

And that heat is having an intense adverse effect on our drought and making wildfires all the more dangerous and likely.

"Topsoil has been all but entirely depleted of moisture and vegetation has shriveled, wilted, and yellowed in a big hurry," Grogan said. "That's why fires are so dangerous and Burn Bans encompass the entire region. There's a lot of dry fuel for fires and the heat makes fighting them a nightmare."

But Grogan said relief is on the way. He's forecasting a cold front for this weekend, which might not make it exactly comfortable outside, but it should bring the high temperatures back down to double digits.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality also issued another ozone watch for areas of northeast Oklahoma for Thursday. People with asthma or breathing problems are instructed to avoid prolonged periods of exertion outdoors.

For more information on how this summer's potentially record breaking heat is intensifying the drought conditions, check out Mike Grogan's blog.

Also, for more complete extreme weather and drought coverage, click on our Weather 101 page.