Okarche Precipitation Correction Project

Those that know me, understand that I am rather picky when it comes to weather records.  I don’t want to hear that “two inches” of rain fell when the actual number was 2.01.  Accurate record keeping which leads to accurate extremes, averages and normal’s is very important to me.  It became especially important when I moved to Okarche in 1992 where there was very little in the way of weather observations being recorded.  Yet, this town is located far enough from the cities which did record weather observations to have significant differences.  With respect to Oklahoma City, temperatures here are typically warmer in the summer and colder in the winter.  Less precipitation typically falls – however, with the isolated nature of thunderstorm activity, large differences can occur over relatively small areas.  Also, despite the usually lesser amount of precipitation overall, snowfall is typically greater than what occurs in Oklahoma City.

The history of weather observations in Okarche is a relatively short one.  I immediately started keeping my own records when I moved here in 1992.  I developed averages which extended back to 1981 based on rainfall recorded by a Fisher & Porter gauge here in town.  The Fisher & Porter gauges date back many decades and frequently have quality issues.  For various and sometimes unknown reasons, the gauge will stop working all together.  They also become frozen in the winter which makes recording real time precipitation impossible and false post precipitation data can be recorded when ice and snow melt during the days after the event.  Still, based largely on weather maps and surrounding observation sites, I was able to use the data and provide a “best guess” at when and how much precipitation fell in Okarche dating back to August of 1981.

It saddened me to move away from Okarche from April 12, 2005 until November 26, 2007.  A strong effort had been made during the previous 13 years to develop and maintain an accurate history of the weather that occurred in Okarche, and I wondered if any of that work would ever be continued.  I officially resumed taking weather observations in Okarche when I moved back in late November of 2007.

The issue at hand was the void of data from April 2005 to November 2007.  Particularly disturbing for someone that has a deep interest in weather observing was the fact that several significant weather events occurred during this time.  Luckily, I discovered that Terry Schwarz, a long-time resident of Okarche, had kept accurate monthly precipitation records during the time I was away.  2007 rainfall was incredible.  May and June saw close to 29 inches of rain, a two month total that won’t likely be seen again anytime soon.  Also, the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin moved across Okarche in August of 2007 producing 7.12 inches of rain on the 19th.  The 2007 total of 63.73 inches of rainfall far exceeds the average and previous record and again, won’t likely be matched soon.

During a several week project, I worked hard on not only sorting out daily precipitation records for the period I was away, but also audited the previous data I recorded and retrieved.  There were a handful of errors that needed to be fixed from previous data, but the biggest problem was sorting out daily data from 2005 to 2007.  While Terry’s data was measured accurately on a monthly basis, he had very little in the way of daily breakdowns.  Still, I used his data, Fisher & Porter data, Oklahoma Mesonet data from El Reno and Kingfisher, my data from northwest Oklahoma City, radar estimated precipitation found on NOAA’s Daily Weather Maps and even radar loops from the Storm Prediction Center’s Significant Events page, to come up with the “best guess” of daily precipitation.  The bottom line is that while the information may not be 100 percent correct, I believe it to be the most accurate possible.  This becomes even more important as we approach August of 2010 when a 30 year average will be able to be calculated.

Overall, this information may or may not be useful to anyone in particular.  However, it does give me a great deal of pride knowing that I am continuing to record weather data for an area that didn’t have it (at least in a detailed sense) and knowing that I am part of a large group of thousands of volunteer weather observers that cover this country.

The next step will be an audit of temperature and other weather events with the goal of maximum possible accuracy across all fields.