Gary McManus Hopeful for Strong El Niño to Relieve Intense Drought in Oklahoma

Listen to Ron Hays talk to Gary McManus about the drought in Oklahoma.

Senior Farm and Ranch Broadcaster, Ron Hays, is visiting with State Climatologist Gary McManus about La Nina and El Niño as the state of Oklahoma continues to suffer from detrimental drought conditions.

While La Niña has ended in the Pacific Ocean, McManus said we are still living under its impacts.

“We have had what is called a triple dip La Niña, so our third cool season in a row with La Niña,” McManus said. “It is very rare. It has only happened, I think, twice before in the accurate records. So, we are very glad that is leaving, because that does tend to bring us some warmer and dryer than normal weather in the cool season, so it would be nice to switch that around to even a normal pattern where we can get some normal rainfall for much of the state.”

The atmosphere is still slightly in-tune with La Niña impacts, McManus said, but it will slowly come into agreement with oceanic temperatures so weather patterns will resume normally.

“Summer in Oklahoma is not a time to relieve drought, unfortunately, so it is timed very poorly, but if we can get some very wet conditions going through the next couple of months as we are now in our normal spring rainy season, that would certainly do wonders for the northwestern half of the state and keep the southeastern half of the state out of drought,” McManus said.

The return of El Niño later in 2023 would be welcomed, McManus said, but it all depends on the strength of El Niño.

“If it is a strong to super-strong El Niño, that is when we tend to get our relief here in Oklahoma,” McManus said. “At least, wetter than normal conditions as we look at that October, November, December through the early spring time frame, which can set us up for a really nice spring and summer in Oklahoma.”

At this point in the spring, McManus said it is hard to tell whether or not El Niño will make an appearance next fall or next winter.

“Hopefully, it is a really strong event that brings us some good moisture as we get into next fall,” McManus said.

Regarding the intensity of the drought in Oklahoma, McManus said Goodwell seems to be ground zero for drought in the entire United States.

Over the last 18 months, McManus said Goodwell has received around seven to eight inches of moisture. In 2022, McManus said Goodwell set the record for the lowest rainfall total in the history of Oklahoma, dating back to the 1880s with 6.48 inches of rainfall.

“Now you tell me what somebody can do with 6.48 inches of rainfall,” McManus said. “If you are in agriculture, it is not a heck of a lot unless you are growing cactus, so it is just very unfortunate for those folks out there.”

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