Oklahoma experiences a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) in the eastern part of the state, with hot, humid summers and mild to cold winters. The western portion, including the panhandle transitions to semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk), with extreme temperatures. Oklahoma is part of the South Central United States. It shares borders with Missouri in the northeast, Arkansas in the east, Texas in the south and west, New Mexico and Colorado in the northwest and Kansas in the north. Mountain ranges and the Gulf of Mexico primarily influence the climate of the state.
Oklahoma, the Sooner State, is home to two major rivers, the Red and the Arkansas, and four mountain ranges: the Wichita, the Arbuckle, the Ouachita, and the Ozark. Oklahoma has an average elevation of 400 meters, with Black Mesa as the highest point at 1516 meters. The topography mainly consists of prairie, plains, rolling hills, mesas, and canyons. The terrain slopes from the High Plains of the west to wetlands in the east. Eastern Oklahoma consists of eight of the eleven ecological regions in the geographically diverse state. Marshlands and forests overshadow the southeast, while oak, elm, cedar, and pine forests dominate the northeast.
Summers are long and hot in Oklahoma. The south and eastern parts are more humid, moist, and cloudy than the western region. Temperatures above 100°F (37.8°C) occur from 15 to 35 days in the summer while moving from east to west, while temperatures above 90°F (32.2°C) range occur from 65 to 115 days in the year. Winter is cold in the panhandle and the west, where temperatures are below freezing for 110 to 140 days in the year. The southeast sees an average of 60 nights below freezing annually. Freezing temperatures occur by mid-October in the fall season and end by mid-April in the spring season. Soil freezes up to a depth of 3" (76.2mm) to 10" (254mm) in the state.
Oklahoma receives annual rainfall that increases sharply from a scanty 18" (457.2mm) in the west to an ample 56" (1422.4mm) in the east and south. May has the maximum precipitation in the year and is closely followed by September in the eastern portion of the state. The panhandle and adjacent western regions are wettest during June and July. Snowfall varies from 2" (50.8mm) in the east to 30" (762mm) in the panhandle. Northwest Oklahoma has several incidences of snowfall, but the snow rarely remains on the ground for more than a few days. The annual sunshine is ample and registers between 2500 hours to 3100 hours in the state.
Oklahoma's highest recorded temperature is 120°F (48.9°C) at Tipton on June 27, 1994, while the record for the lowest is -27°F (-32.8°C) at Watts on January 18, 1930.
The best time to visit Oklahoma
The best time to visit Oklahoma is during the fall from September to November when the weather is mild. Day temperatures are bearable during the autumn and cool down further in the latter part of the season. The humidity is low compared to the peak of summer, and the conditions are pleasant in late fall. The fall season sees less number of tornadoes and thunderstorms than spring and summer. Summer temperatures easily cross 100°F (37.8°C) and remain above it for days on end. The fall season is especially colorful in forested areas of the northeast and southeast.
The worst time to visit Oklahoma
The worst time to visit Oklahoma is during the peak of summer when the temperatures reach scorching levels. The ultraviolet rays of the sun reach dangerous levels, and the conditions are extremely hot. The eastern part of the state is humid, while the western part receives most of its rainfall during the summer. Thunderstorms are frequent and add to the convectional precipitation that occurs in the hot season. Additionally, tornadoes are active during the summer and can throw a spanner in vacation plans.
Oklahoma is prone to droughts, floods, wildfires, thunderstorms, tornadoes, and snowstorms. Drought is a recurring phenomenon in the western part with scanty rainfall. Dry conditions often pose a risk of wildfires. Flash flooding of local streams and creeks are common during short periods of intense rainfall. Flooding happens during periods of excessive rainfall in the late spring and early fall periods. Winters are susceptible to freezing rain that leads to hazardous roads. Ice cover can cause extensive damage to power lines and property due to falling tree limbs. Snowstorms are rare but cause disruptions to everyday life when they occur. Oklahoma lies in the center of the Tornado Alley and is subject to tornadoes of intense nature with damaging winds. Sixty-two tornadoes occur on an average in the year, with the maximum during the spring season. Thunderstorms bring heavy rain during the summer.
Weather in January
January is the coldest month of the year in Oklahoma, with the winter at its peak. The average low temperatures are in the frigid 19°F (-7.2°C) to 31°F (-0.6°C), while the average high temperatures are in the 46°F (7.8°C) to 53°F (11.7°C) zone. Oklahoma City, the capital of the state, registers temperatures in the average range of 29°F (-1.7°C) to 50°F (10°C). The days are short and cold, and the sunshine is moderate at best. January is also the snowiest month of the year, with ample snow, in the western mountains, that is perfect for cross-country skiing. Wichita Mountains in the southwest offer breathtaking views of the landscape amid some of the best winter trails. Snug scarves and winter coats provide much-needed warmth during the winter. Bundle up against the seasonal chill or spend time in a cozy cabin with ice fingers hanging outside. State parks provide numerous outdoor activities even at the peak of winter. January brings a joyful New Year, which is a combination of mild days and cold nights in Oklahoma.
Weather in February
February is cold in Oklahoma as the average temperatures are in the cold 22°F (-5.6°C) to mild 59°F (15°C) zone across the state. Nights are regularly below freezing as temperatures dip below 20°F (-6.7°C) in Beaver in the west. Tulsa in the east averages between a frigid 21°F (-6.1°C) to mild 53°F (11.7°C), while Chickasha in the central region is between a cold 30°F (-1.1°C) to 57°F (13.9°C). The sunlight lasts for 5 to 6 hours during the day as the skies occasionally remain cloudy. Snowstorms are less intense in western Oklahoma but unheard of in the south and southeast part of the state. There are plenty of options to hike over the winding trails while watching the serene landscape bathed in snow. Mountain biking and winter hiking are possible in the winter in many places. Woodlands provide cover for wildlife that is active mainly during the night but occasionally spotted in the morning. The temperatures rise steadily by the end of February in Oklahoma.
Weather in March
March gradually transitions from cold to warm weather in Oklahoma with the arrival of the spring season. Freezing temperatures subside by mid-March in the south and east. The ground thaws by the end of March in the north and west. Day high temperatures average in the mild 59°F (15°C) to 67°F (19.4°C), but nights are cold between 59°F (15°C) to 67°F (19.4°C). Spring break sees many visitors in the Wichita Mountains in the west where the mild temperatures between 41°F (5°C) to 63°F (17.2°C) are suitable for sighting wildlife even during the day. The precipitation sees an uptick to register between 2" (50.8mm) to 5" (127mm), but the snowfall reduces significantly in the majority of the state. The bright sunshine removes the last traces of frost from the soil to free the ground for the growing season. Cloudy skies often interfere with the sun and even throw a few storms in the mix. Morning mist curls off the gently winding rivers during early spring in March in Oklahoma.
Weather in April
April has comfortable temperatures in Oklahoma with warm days and mild nights. The last remnants of snow disappear by mid-April except for a few places in the high mountains. Spring brings fresh air, sweet aroma of the soil, migratory birds, and greenery over the landscape. The average high temperatures are in the beautiful range of 70°F (21.1°C) to 75°F (23.9°C), while nights are comfortable in the 45°F (7.2°C) to 50°F (10°C) zone. Camping gathers steam in places like Lake Eufaula, which registers temperatures in the fantastic 45°F (7.2°C) to 50°F (10°C) range. The rainfall picks up significantly as most areas receive between 3" (76.2mm) to 5" (127mm) of rain. Cozy cabins in the state parks offer relaxation in picturesque surroundings. The fabulous fireplaces in the cabins provide warmth for romantic evenings. Peaceful views of lakes and rivers add a new dimension to holidays in the spring weather. The tourist season sees a bump, as do the number of tornadoes in April in Oklahoma.
Weather in May
May is the wettest month of the year in Oklahoma and has the highest incidence of tornadoes. The average high temperatures are in the comfortable 70°F (21.1°C) to 80°F (26.7°C), while the nights are in the average range of 56°F (13.3°C) to 62°F (16.7°C). Oklahoma City in the center of the state registers temperatures in the 60°F (15.6°C) to 80°F (26.7°C). The precipitation ranges from 3" (76.2mm) in the west to 7" (177.8mm) in the east. Hiking, mountain biking, and horse riding are popular activities during the bright days of spring. There is an abundant supply of trout in the rivers and lakes that garners the interest of fish lovers during spring. State parks have diverse animal and plant species, and the clear weather is perfect for watching the fantastic sunsets. Late spring is a time to usually avoid a visit to Oklahoma with the frequent occurrence of storms. Tornadoes pose the greatest danger during May in Oklahoma, and the month routinely encounters more than 20 twisters.
Weather in June
June is the beginning of the hot summer in Oklahoma, with long days under the relentless sun. Day high temperatures average between 84°F (28.9°C) to 92°F (33.3°C), but many days register above 100°F (37.8°C). The humidity adds to the heat factor as the conditions become oppressive. The nights are bearable due to the significant drop in temperatures that usually see them below 70°F (21.1°C). June sees many wet days in the state due to the increased frequency of thunderstorms. Tornadoes regularly occur as Oklahoma lies in the center of the Tornado Alley of the United States. Despite the heat and storms, many tourists visit the state due to summer festivals, events, and a large number of state parks. Swimming, boating, canoeing, and kayaking are popular activities to lower the summer heat. The numerous water parks provide relief and amusement. Light clothing is sufficient in the day along with a rain jacket to counter a sudden bout of rain. Keep an eye for thunderstorms and tornadoes in June in Oklahoma.
Weather in July
July is usually the hottest month of the year in Oklahoma with the average high temperatures climbing in the hot 90°F (32.2°C) to 97°F (36.1°C) zone. Nights are cooler with the average temperatures in the 66°F (18.9°C) to 72°F (22.2°C). Beaver in the west registers temperatures between 66°F (18.9°C) to 92°F (33.3°C), while McAlester in the east remains in the 72°F (22.2°C) to 93°F (33.9°C) range. Six to eight rainy days bring 3" (76.2mm) to 5" (127mm) of rainfall in the state. The sunrays are at the harshest during mid-day, and afternoons are prone to brief spells of thunderstorms. Convectional rainfall adds to the precipitation numbers. Lakes, parks, and mountains see plenty of visitors who wish to escape from the oppressive heat. July is the time to wear sweatshirts and t-shirts along with plenty of sunscreen. Mountains offer cooler temperatures than the surrounding lowlands and exciting activities like hiking and trailing. It is better to spend the afternoons indoors when the heat is unbearable. Avoid a visit to Oklahoma in July, if possible.
Weather in August
August is a hot summer month in Oklahoma with long days and bright sunshine. The average high temperatures are in the harsh 92°F (33.3°C) to 96°F (35.6°C) zone, while the nights fare better in the range of 65°F (18.3°C) to 73°F (22.8°C). The rainfall is in the 3" (76.2mm) to 4" (101.6mm) range with a decrease in storm activity. Campgrounds rarely remain vacant with the clear weather that offers fantastic stargazing opportunities in the vast open prairie. An insect repellent is a must while camping in open tents. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve sees numerous footfalls in the summer with its pretty drives and frequent wildlife sightings. The hot weather and heightened humidity see a dash towards water spots. Western Oklahoma sees extreme temperatures that can occasionally touch 115°F (46.1°C) and stay there for days. Mornings and evenings are better for outdoor activities with long daylight hours and bright sunshine. It is better to visit Oklahoma when the conditions are mild than the scorching heat of August.
Weather in September
September welcomes the beautiful fall season to Oklahoma with a drop in temperatures and humidity. The hot and humid air masses from the south frequently interact with the cold air from the north to bring drastic changes in the weather. September is the second maxima of precipitation in the state that yields 3" (76.2mm) to 6" (152.4mm) of rainfall. From the peak of the summer, temperatures drop to average between 83°F (28.3°C) to 87°F (30.6°C) during the day. Nights are comfortable in the 54°F (12.2°C) to 62°F (16.7°C) range. Tulsa in the east lies in the warm zone of 62°F (16.7°C) to 84°F (28.9°C), while Elk City in the west records warm temperatures between 59°F (15°C) to 84°F (28.9°C). Early fall has plenty of sunshine as the rain lasts for 6 to 8 days in the month. The leaves start to change colors by mid-September, and the landscape alters radically. The winds are perfect for hot-air balloon races and rides such as those at the Poteau Balloon fest in eastern Oklahoma in September.
Weather in October
October is one of the best times to visit Oklahoma as the landscape bathes in brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow, and magenta. The fall foliage is at its peak as the natural beauty of the region combines with the brilliant colors of the changing leaves. The eastern forests are particularly majestic in the fall season. The average high temperatures are in the delectable range of 72°F (22.2°C) to 76°F (24.4°C), while average low temperatures register are between a mild 47°F (8.3°C) to 52°F (11.1°C) across the state. The skies are partly cloudy, but the low humidity keeps the conditions pleasant. The rainfall is to the tune of 3" (76.2mm) to 5" (127mm) and decreases by the second half of the month. Pumpkin patches, craft and beer festivals, and gentle breezes during the evening are prominent features of the fall season. A light sweater or jacket is perfect for breezy autumn evenings. Thunderstorm and tornado activities subside significantly by the end of October in Oklahoma.
Weather in November
November brings mild temperatures to Oklahoma as the autumn season winds up steadily. The average high temperatures drop to the mild range of 59°F (15°C) to 64°F (17.8°C), while the average low temperatures enter the cold zone of 29°F (-1.7°C) to 43°F (6.1°C). Kenton, Beaver, and Reydon in the west occasionally register freezing nights. The precipitation slows down significantly to register between 2" (50.8mm) to 4" (101.6mm) in the state. The first flurries of snow are evident in the west and are noticeable with the end of the fall season. The days are short, and the sunshine is moderate. Fall drives are scenic through the vast open prairie with the wind in the face during the breezy evenings. The growing season is on the last legs, with the ground slowly conceding to frost. Jackets and sweaters provide warmth during the cold nights of late fall. Temperatures rapidly cool down with each passing day in November. Late fall is an excellent time for budget travelers due to cheap accommodations and fewer crowds in Oklahoma.
Weather in December
December brings cold weather in Oklahoma with short days and moderate sunshine. The average high temperatures are in the mild 46°F (7.8°C) to 54°F (12.2°C) range, while the average low temperatures lie in the cold 19°F (-7.2°C) to 33°F (0.6°C) zone. Western Oklahoma receives moderate snowfall up to 5" (127mm), while the rest of the state experiences light snow and occasional frost. Precipitation is light and widespread to the tune of 2" (50.8mm) to 3" (76.2mm). Nights regularly drop below freezing, and temperatures can reach extremes during a cold wave. The sunshine is bright in the eastern and southern parts but mild in the west. Frozen soil and frost penetration is greatest in the panhandle. Roads are dangerous to drive when the occasional freezing rain renders them slippery. Christmas is a great time to enjoy the winter festival of Oklahoma City with plenty of activities, including ice skating, free water taxi rides, and holiday lights. Head to Arcadia Lake or Tenkiller State Park to watch the majestic eagles that migrate to Oklahoma in December.