JULY 2001 the sixth-warmest on record

Wednesday, September 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ A spate of 100-degree temperatures and a lack of rain helped make July 2001 the sixth warmest on record in Oklahoma, officials said.

According to preliminary National Weather Service statistics, the statewide average temperature for July was 86.1 degrees, 4 degrees warmer than normal, the Oklahoma Climatological Survey reported Tuesday.

Only an average of 0.87 of an inch of rain fell in the state, 1.75 inches below normal and the eighth lowest statewide average precipitation on record, the climatological survey said.

For the period including June and July, the statewide average temperature climbed to 81.6 degrees, 2 degrees higher than normal and the 18th greatest temperature for that period on record, the survey reported.

The 3.16 inches of rain that fell during the two-month period was 3.41 inches below normal, making it the fifth lowest on record for the state.

July 2001 was warmer than July 2000, when the statewide average temperature was 81.3 degrees, but slightly cooler than July 1998, when the average was 86.3 degrees, said Howard L. Johnson, associate state climatologist for the survey.

Johnson said the conditions have affected farmers but not the water supply. Drought is defined as a period in which insufficient precipitation falls, Johnson said.

``What we've had three of the last four summers were hot summers in the middle of wet years,'' Johnson said. ``It makes a difference in how well people who are dependent on moisture for their livelihood recover.''

Those dependent on moisture for their living _ farmers _ haven't fared too well with the latest excessive heat and dry spell, said Mason Mungle, legislative liaison for the Oklahoma Farmers Union.

Cotton grown without an irrigation system _ peanuts, soybeans, alfalfa hay, corn, milo and wheat _ have all suffered this summer, Mungle said.

``With the cotton, it won't bloom out,'' he said. ``It will put out some blooms, but instead of having a cotton plant that's 24 to 36 inches high, it will maybe be a foot high.''

Heat climbing to 100 degrees or greater has stunted the growth of cotton and peanuts and forced many farmers to cut their soybean crop for hay, Mungle said.

In parts of the state that have received moisture, wheat farmers are mulling whether to plant their crop or wait.

``They've got to hope there's not enough moisture to make the seeds sprout prematurely,'' Mungle said.

While July was hot, hotter temperatures for that period in other years can be found, Johnson said.

In 1936, during the Dust Bowl era, the statewide average temperature for July reached 86.3 degrees, and climbed to 87.8 degrees in the well-known heat wave of 1980, he said. In 1954, the statewide averaged temperature reached 88.6 degrees.

The years of 1936 and 1954 fell within extended drought periods, Johnson said.

July 1980 was the driest July on record in Oklahoma, which received only 0.41 inches of rain.

''1980 was a remarkable summer,'' Johnson said.

At least nine people suffered heat-related deaths in July, authorities said.