Oklahoma Is OK if You Like Sizzling Temperatures

Oklahoma has one more day of record heat to endure before temperatures are forecast to cool to more comfortable levels. Well, that is if you consider the upper-90s to low-100s to be “comfortable,” anyway.

Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and all points in between have seen record-breaking or near-record-breaking heat during the past week or more. The high temperature in Oklahoma City on Wednesday and Thursday reached 112°F, the hottest it’s been there since Aug. 10, 1936, and just 1°F shy of the city’s all-time record high temperature, which was also recorded during the Dust Bowl-era. Daily high temperature records were broken on both days.

High temperatures across Oklahoma on August 2, 2012. Credit: Oklahoma Mesonet.

Tulsa also reached 112°F on August 2, short of its all-time high temperature record of 115°F. During the past week, Tulsa has twice had a low temperature of 88°F, which was its warmest overnight-low temperature on record.

If the temperature through 1 a.m. on Saturday fails to drop below 84°F, which currently appears likely, then Oklahoma City will also have set an all-time record for the warmest overnight-low temperature.

Oklahoma City has seen 16 straight days of 100 degree-plus temperatures, and is likely to extend that streak for at least two more days, and possibly more, considering that high temperatures through the first full week in August are forecast to top out near or just past the triple-digit mark.

Temperatures throughout Oklahoma were scorchingly hot on Wednesday and Thursday, with a top reading of 115°F noted on the state’s network of weather observing stations, known as the Oklahoma Mesonet. Lawton Municipal Airport had a high temperature of 113°F on both days.

The brutally hot weather follows on the state’s blazing summer of 2011, when the average statewide temperature for the summer months set a record for the warmest summer ever recorded for any state in the U.S. It’s no coincidence that both this summer and last summer were extremely dry, since drought conditions often lead to higher temperatures. According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, 72 percent of Oklahoma was in extreme-to-exceptional drought, the two most intense categories, and significant relief is not expected through October.

Temperature departures from average during late July into early August, showing the hot weather in Oklahoma. Credit: High Plains Regional Climate Center.

During the past week, there have been 576 daily record high temperatures set or tied in the U.S., along with 631 warm overnight-low temperature records set or tied. Of those, eight have set or tied all-time high temperature records, and 14 have broken or tied all-time records for warm overnight low temperature (track records using Climate Central’s Record Temperature Tracker).

This year, daily record highs have been outnumbering record daily lows in the U.S. by a ratio of 9-to-1. This imbalance is part of a trend, according to a 2009 study, which found that record daily highs are occurring more frequently than record lows. A 1-to-1 ratio would be expected if the climate were not warming, but the ratio during the period from 2000-2009 was closer to 2-to-1 in favor of warm temperature records. This finding cannot be explained by natural climate variability alone, the study found, and is instead consistent with global warming