2002 Annual

Monday, 14 January 2002: 10:15 AM
The Oklahoma Mesonet: A mesoscale tool for drought recognition and monitoring
Howard L. Johnson, Oklahoma Climatological Survey, Norman, OK; and D. S. Arndt, G. D. McManus, and M. A. Shafer
Poster PDF (115.5 kB)
Since the commissioning of the Oklahoma Mesonet in March 1994, three short but intense dry spells have impacted Oklahoma’s residents and economy. These episodes occurred during the winter of 1995-96, summer 1998, and late-summer 2000. Their durations varied from ten weeks to ten months. Significant wildfire outbreaks accompanied each episode, and each dry spell severely damaged one or more of Oklahoma’s crops. However, because rainfall during the interim periods was well above normal, the dry events were masked by normal and above-normal annual rainfall statistics.

Oklahoma Mesonet data allowed the real-time observation of these events on the mesoscale, including the advent of real-time soil moisture data by the third episode. Mesonet information was incorporated into the state’s drought response plan, which was written in the wake of the 1995-96 episode. With improvements in the dissemination of Mesonet data, confidence grew in the instrumentation and in the interpretation of data. As a result, state officials were able to monitor the evolution of successive episodes increasingly well. This enabled quicker recognition of, and response to, drought conditions across the state.

Mesonet soil moisture observations revealed that portions of Oklahoma did not fully recover from the effects of the summer of 1998 by the onset of the summer 2000 episode. In these regions, the impacts of drought and heat were established more quickly and severely than in other regions of Oklahoma.

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