Data doesn't support notion that mild Oklahoma summers lead to bad Oklahoma winters

Friday, November 12th 2004, 5:43 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ As a winter storm bears down on far western Oklahoma, speculation about the harshness of the coming winter grows.

There's an old adage that you pay for a mild summer with a miserable winter, but weather observations and climatological data don't necessarily bear that out, experts say.

Oklahoma Panhandle and far northwestern Oklahoma residents got their first taste of winter last week, when a storm dumped several inches on parts of the region.

That area of the state is under a winter storm watch through Saturday another powerful system moves out the Southwest.

Meteorologists in the National Weather Service's Tulsa forecast office reviewed past data and learned an unbearably cold winter doesn't necessarily follow a mild summer.

``Summer temperatures and precipitation are apparently not good predictors,'' meteorologist Nicole Kempf said.

The Old Farmer's Almanac doesn't draw a correlation between mild summers and cold winters either. It predicts that Oklahoma's winter will be cold and dry, ``with temperatures 3 to 4 degrees below normal, on average, and precipitation will be much less than normal.''

The almanac also said February will be one of the coldest months ever, with the coldest temperatures of the winter in the first part of the month.

The almanac forecast is based upon the belief that Earth's weather is influenced by sunspots.

Perry rancher and farmer Scott Dvorak said he's heard from his peers that this year's winter will be harsh.

``But I don't know if research bears that out or not. It is kind of hard to outguess Mother Nature.''

Dvorak runs 500 head of cattle and farms 4,000 acres in north-central Oklahoma. Cool and damp conditions affect his business because he must feed his cattle cut hay rather than let them graze.

``In this type of weather, it takes livestock a lot of energy just to stay warm,'' Dvorak said.

Weather service long-term forecasts issued on the first day of autumn, Sept. 22, say Oklahoma is expected to have near-normal precipitation and temperatures during the next few months.

Derek Arndt, acting state climatologist for the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, reviewed statistics for Julys, Augusts, Septembers and Octobers, then looked at those for Novembers, Decembers, Januarys and Februarys.

He said he saw no real connection between the two time periods.

``These late summer and fall months don't have a whole lot of impact on their following winters, statistically. Winter weather systems don't pay much attention'' to what happened over the summer, he said.