State Climatologist Gary McManus says Soil Moisture is Deteriorating Quickly

Listen to KC Sheperd’s full conversation with Gary McManus.

Farm Director, KC Sheperd, caught up with State Climatologist, Gary McManus, and talked about a lookout on the drought in Oklahoma.

Looking at the latest Oklahoma drought monitor report issued on August 24, McManus said the drought saw big changes this week. McManus said lack of rain, plus extreme heat, means flash drought.

“We did more than double our drought coverage in the state in one week,” McManus said. “The good news is, we were starting out at a very low level of about 13 percent, a little bit under that, but now we are up about 28 percent all in one week.”

McManus said the severe and extreme drought or worse categories didn’t’ see significant changes, but the moderate and abnormally dry or worse categories saw some big increases.

 “In this case, that drought is just about two years long,” McManus said. “It really started back in August of 2021.”

While some parts of the state saw some relief during that two-year time frame, McManus said there are other parts that did not get a break. Soil moisture has also begun to deteriorate, he added.

“When you start to dry the soil out a little bit, then we lose the ability for the sun’s energy to go towards evaporating that soil moisture, which is a cooling process,” McManus said. “Then, more of that heat goes toward just heating the ground and causes us to lose more soil moisture.”

McManus also talked about what that soil moisture is going to mean for those planning on planting wheat.

“In the next couple of weeks, people are going to start thinking about planting wheat seed in for forage later on… without that soil moisture there, that is a classic case of just probably having to dust it in and hope for rainfall,” McManus said. “I think most of the time, we succeed when we do that, but sometimes we wait too long for that next rainfall.”

During his interview, McManus also talked about the impacts of El Niño and La Niña, and what those will mean for Oklahoma.

“It will probably get worse before it gets better,” McManus said.

He said inevitably, it will get cooler, which would help, but more forage growth would be ideal before the fall and winter seasons.

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