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Oklahoma's top climate expert discusses heatwave, cites climate change as a potential factor

Oklahoma Mesonet
For the first time in its 25 years of collecting this data, the Oklahoma Mesonet recorded temperatures of 103 degrees or higher at every single one of its 120 weather stations around the state.

Heat records are being shattered in Oklahoma this week. On Tuesday, for the first time in its 25 years of collecting this data, the Oklahoma Mesonet recorded temperatures of 103 degrees or higher at every single one of its 120 weather stations around the state.

"It was a day waiting to happen, we just needed the right conditions," said Gary McManus, state climatologist of Oklahoma.

He says much like a wildfire danger day, it was just a matter of the right ingredients coming together at the right time. And while he says he’d bet against the new record falling this year—

"We don't get good rains, we could certainly reproduce a day like this, but it would be rare to have it happen, especially as we get farther into August. But, as they say, records were made to be broken."

And records are falling more frequently due to human-caused climate change.

"There was probably some contribution due to climate change with the magnitude of this heat. We do know that climate change does make these events a little bit more likely to occur. If you're rolling the dice, it tilts the dice a little bit more, weights them a little bit more, to have these things happen," McManus said.

The EPA, the international panel on climate change and the overwhelming majority of climate scientists concur that man-made climate change is driving more frequent and deadlier heat events worldwide.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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