Sunday, June 3, 2012

Oklahoma 2011: Hottest. Summer. Ever.

Elliot picked a most inopportune time to go on a mission to Oklahoma. You may recall that we wrote several stories for the blog about the incredible temperatures and drought experienced last year in Oklahoma and neighboring Texas. (See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) And now climatologists are reporting that last summer in Oklahoma (not Texas, as previously thought) was the hottest ever recorded in the United States:
In the new tally by the National Climatic Data Center, Oklahoma's average temperature last summer was 86.9 degrees, while Texas finished with 86.7 degrees. The previous record for the hottest summer was 85.2 degrees set in 1934 — in Oklahoma. 
"I'm from Oklahoma, and when you talk about the summer of 1934, there are a lot of connotations that go with that," said Deke Arndt, chief of the NCDC's climate monitoring branch in Asheville, N.C. "That whole climate episode — the Dust Bowl — that is a point in our state's history that we still look back to as transformative." 
Yet the summer of 2011, "was warmer than all those summers that they experienced during the Dust Bowl," Arndt said.
It really was remarkable to watch the weather reports from last summer. The 46 consecutive days of 100+ degrees in Wichita Falls where Elliot was assigned is hard to imagine. And it had a huge impact on local ranchers and farmers:
For Oklahoma rancher Monte Tucker, last summer was a breaking point, and it didn't make him feel any better Friday when he learned about his state's new dubious honor. 
Last summer felt like "opening an oven after cooking bread," said Tucker, who ranches in Sweetwater, in western Oklahoma. "We basically got up right about sun-up and did all we could until 11 in the morning, and we basically shut down almost 'till dark and kind of started up again. 
"I don't want to do it again, I'll say that much," he said.
The good news for Elliot is that this summer likely will not match the temperatures of last summer, and he'll be coming home in mid-August.

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