Oklahoma has experienced a decline in precipitation over the last 30 years due to climate change, a new study finds.
The new study, published online in the journal Science Advances, found that Oklahoma’s precipitation in recent decades has decreased by 3.7 inches (8 centimeters) in the past 30 years, with an average annual drop of 1.2 inches (5 centimeters).
That’s roughly equivalent to losing more than one inch (2 centimeters) of snow per year.
Oklahoma’s average annual precipitation since 1900 has decreased to just under 4.6 inches (10 centimeters).
The study also finds that Oklahoma experienced a 0.4 inches (1.3 centimeters) drop in rainfall between 1950 and 2015.
Oklahoma also experienced a 2.1 inches (6 centimeters) decrease in the amount of snow that fell in the state during the last 20 years, and a 1.5 inches (4 centimeters) increase in the snowpack in the surrounding counties.
The study is one of the first to examine the state’s overall climate change trends in Oklahoma, said study lead author Andrew L. Johnson, a doctoral candidate in atmospheric sciences at the University of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma has not had an average year with more than 3 inches (7 centimeters) precipitation in over a century.
In the early 1900s, Oklahoma was considered one of Oklahoma’s more arid states, with little snowfall, and the region was prone to extreme winter weather, said Johnson.
In Oklahoma in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the area was much more arable and less susceptible to climate changes that could cause extreme snowfall and drought.
During the mid-20th century, the climate changed significantly and Oklahoma experienced some of the driest years on record, and that helped spur an increase in agriculture.
The state’s arid climate led to a loss of about 100,000 acres of arable land, according to the study.
“This is an important study because we’re seeing climate change impacts on Oklahoma and the impact of climate change is still impacting our state,” Johnson said.
“In addition to climate, there are other impacts that are impacting the agricultural sector.
A decrease in crop yields could mean less food for the hungry and fewer jobs for our farmers.
The loss of arid lands also can affect our water supply and increase the risk of droughts and flooding.”
The study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, examined a wide range of precipitation events, including a drought and storm events, to get a snapshot of Oklahoma climate and precipitation.
“The most important thing to remember is that Oklahoma is a landlocked state and that the weather pattern changes are always changing,” Johnson added.
“So it’s very important that we keep our eyes on our own state and not just worry about climate change.”