Once (well, actually, twice) upon a time, I took one of those "You should live here" tests, which analyzes one's responses to a number of semi-loaded questions and then calculates the location you had no idea you desired. Unsurprisingly, most of the places selected for me had, as the phrase goes, more climate and less weather: while I have been known to joke that Oklahoma has "a true nine-season climate," for the most part we have only three: freezing, storming, boiling, not necessarily in that order. One quick-and-dirty rule of thumb I've always used to gauge harshness of climate is simply to subtract the coldest average temperature (usually in January) from the hottest (usually in July), in which case my current home town comes in with 83.5 minus 39 = 44.5. This is, to put it mildly (so to speak), on the high side; at the other end of the spectrum, San Diego, for example, comes in with about a 12.

Then again, we get about three times the rain that San Diego does. Or anyway, we used to; the local version of the Drought Monitor puts us in category D1, which is considered "moderate drought," though it wasn't that long ago we were sweltering in D3 to D4 status.

NOAA temperature and precipitation plot for 2011

A peek at last year's NOAA plot for the station at Will Rogers World Airport shows the feast/famine nature of the precipitation around here. The driest month we had was March: a whole 0.03 inches, about one hundredth of normal. (January had 0.10 inches, not much better.) Then again, we had over nine inches in May, though it was anything but evenly distributed throughout the month. And then there was the dreaded February, during which we had the distinct displeasure of digging out from under 18.9 inches of snow, which worked out to less than one inch of actual liquid. Then again, all you need to know about February in this state is right there in the graph: yes, that was a below-zero reading, and yes, it did reach 80 one week later, and again ten days after that.

Even more frustration sets in when you look at July. We had 3.04 inches of rain that month, but nobody noticed because it was so damned hot, and anyway, most of it came in one fell swoop on the 12th. The high temperature that day? Ninety-eight. Second coolest of the month.

I remember mentioning in the fall of '96:

[S]o far October has been downright wonderful temperatures in the 50s (Fahrenheit) at night, 70s during the day, not too much wind, and humidity in the Not Horrible range. This pattern shows up maybe twice a year, the other time being in middle-to-late April, and it occurs to me, 107 years after the fact, that this must be why when they opened up the native lands to white settlement back in 1889, the notorious Oklahoma Land Run, they scheduled the event for the twenty-second of April; if they'd had it around Christmas, or on the Fourth of July, nobody would have showed up at the starting line.

On sober second thought, sure they would: if there's anything people love better than nice weather, it's free stuff.

The reader may be forgiven for asking "How do you guys put up with that sort of thing?" We shrug, and we go on. It's part of the local character. (I wasn't born here, but after 35 years or so, it's sunk in.) And we expect things to go awry. In that horrible month of February '11, I broke my snow shovel; after waiting for the spring price break, I bought one of those not quite industrial-strength, but still formidable-looking, pushers, and dared the stuff to occupy my driveway. Total snowfall for the winter of '11-'12: 1.8 inches. The thing is standing in the garage, still wrapped. If I thought for a moment this would work again, I'd buy another one.

The Vent

  9 March 2012

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 Copyright © 2012 by Charles G. Hill