Wild, Wild Western Oklahoma Panhandle
December 13, 2009
The top map above shows the weather conditions for Oklahoma on Tuesday December 8, 2009 -- in mid afternoon. At this time of year, the Oklahoma Panhandle is often considerably colder and drier than the rest of the state. One reason this is so is because it’s also higher than most of the rest of Oklahoma. The ground can freeze up pretty darn hard here. If you slam a shovel into the bare earth and it doesn't pop back up and take a few of your teeth, you're likely not far enough west in the Panhandle.The plateaus of the High Plains in our western Panhandle can have wild temperature swings when cold air is in place due to several factors. The elevation (4,000-5,000 feet or 1,220–1,525 m) can often help diminish the duration of some cold air outbreaks as the more shallow cold air masses ooze about. Another player is the propensity of the area to experience westerly down-sloping winds. Compressional heating can be a wondrous present after a cold winter morning. And don't forget those lovely lee troughs and their southerly winds. Compare the temperature at the town of Goodwell (third station from the right on top map) with nearby stations and with temperatures in the “pan” part of the state.
The bottom figure is a meteogram from the Oklahoma Mesonet weather station at Goodwell for December 8, located in the far western Panhandle. Note that the temperature was steady for most of the day, in the 20s (-1 to -8 C) with southeasterly winds. Eventually winds swung around to the west and the temperature soared to around 45 degrees (8 C). Shortly thereafter, the temperature plummeted to the lower teens (-12 C) and wind chills drop to near 10 degrees below zero F (-23 C). That’s a lot of weather in one day but close to par for the course for the Panhandle.
Goodwell, OK coordinates: N36.593333, W101.629722