Unlike last year, winter has made very few visits to Green Country this year. It's been more like spring. But, why has it been so mild? And what does that mean for this coming spring?
It's almost like we're being rewarded for the horrible winter we had last year. Instead of snow, we've had sun. Instead of record cold, we've had near record warmth. But, is this a bad sign for what's to come?
At this time a year ago, we were still recovering from back to back major winter storms -- one of them a blizzard -- and record cold temperatures including 31 degrees below zero in Nowata. As the saying goes, what a difference a year makes. By this time last year we received a record 26 inches of snow. So far this year we've only had 1.7 inches. The last time we had so little snow was 1976.
This winter can only be characterized as warm and dry. Temperatures have been as high as 30 degrees above normal with the warmest day being 72 degrees. Unless things change, this will go down as one of the warmest winters in our history on the heels of one of the coldest. There has been a serious lack of cold air, snow and rain.
A big reason for that is La Nina, the cooling of the eastern Pacific Ocean, which is keeping the jet stream far to the north, trapping the really cold air up there, and allowing us to stay warm down here. This doesn't come as a surprise. Last November, as Channel 8 Chief Meteorologist Frank Mitchell predicted: "There's a good chance we will escape the worst with warmer and drier weather compared to last year."
So now the big question is -- will this mild and dry winter lead to a mild and dry spring? And what about tornadoes? Will there be more or less than usual? Frank says he doesn't see any reason why we won't have a mild spring since he doesn't expect this pattern to change anytime soon.
And the dry weather should continue as well. The parched earth and the dry air above it will make it that much harder for rain to fall. It's very difficult to bust out of a drought. That means more fire danger days.
Despite the dry conditions this spring, Frank is forecasting slightly more than our normal share of tornadoes. Oklahoma averages 54 twisters per year. Last year we had a whopping 119. This year, Frank is forecasting 56 tornadoes for the state.