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Extreme Drought Persists in Oklahoma, Texas

October 07, 2011

By Mark Schlachtenhaufen, The Edmond Sun, Okla.

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EDMOND -- Much of Oklahoma and most of Texas remain entrenched in the most intense drought conditions possible, according to a report released Thursday.

The western two-thirds of Oklahoma -- more than 66 percent of the state -- and nearly all of Texas are experiencing exceptional drought conditions, the most intense level in the U.S. Drought Monitor`s five-tier intensity scale. The southeastern quarter of New Mexico is experiencing exceptional drought.

Parts of the eastern third of Oklahoma are experiencing exceptional drought, extreme drought and severe drought.

Three months ago, only 33 percent of the state was experiencing exceptional drought. Then Oklahoma recorded its hottest summer ever.

Last month, La Nina conditions strengthened as indicated by increasingly negative sea surface temperature anomalies across the eastern half of the equatorial Pacific, according to the National Weather Service`s Climate Prediction Center.

The climate phenomenon, marked by cooler than normal sea surface temperatures, often brings warmer and drier weather to the southern one-third of the United States from late-fall through spring.

Conditions entering this La Nina episode are much worse than at this time last year when only 4 percent of the state had any type of drought designation.

Oklahoma has experienced about $1.6 billion in losses due to the current drought, according to estimates from Oklahoma State University`s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

The latest U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook from the National Weather Service`s Climate Prediction Center predicts drought to persist or intensify for all of Oklahoma through the end of 2011.

Some improvements are possible in northeastern Oklahoma and the western Panhandle, however. With La Nina`s return, continued drought into 2012 appears likely.

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(c)2011 The Edmond Sun. Edmond, Okla.

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Story image: Sailboats and a floating dock lie on the dry, cracked dirt in a harbor at Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City as drought continues to be a problem across the state. AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki.

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