Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA HAS AN area of 69,903 sq. mi. (181,048 sq. km.), with inland water making up 1,224 sq. mi. (3,170 sq. km.) Oklahoma's average elevation is 1,300 ft. (396 m.) above sea level, with a range in elevation from 289 ft. (88 m.) above sea level at Little River, to 4,973 ft. (1,516 m.) above sea level at Black Mesa in the Panhandle. The topographic features include the Interior Plains, making up the largest part of the state (hilly with changes in elevation to the High Plains); Coastal Plain (relatively flat and sometimes swampy); and the Interior Highlands (mountains, ridges, and valleys). Oklahoma has numerous smaller rivers and two major tributaries of the Mississippi River (the Arkansas River and Red River). The larger lakes are man-made by dams to control navigation, decrease flooding, and improve the water supply.

Oklahoma's climate conditions vary depending on the time of year and region of the state; it is warm and dry in most of the state. Northwestern Oklahoma is cooler and drier than southeastern Oklahoma. Temperatures range in the extremes from below 0-100 degrees F (minus 17 to 38 degrees C). The highest temperature recorded in the state was 120 degrees F (49 degrees C) on June 27, 1994 and the lowest temperature recorded in the state was minus 27 degrees F (minus 33 degrees C)on January 18, 1930. Oklahoma occupies a transitional precipitation zone, with a humid sub-tropical east and a semi-arid west. The length of growing season, in the warm and wet southeastern Oklahoma, averages 238 days, in the colder dryer panhandle the growing season lasts only 168 days. The amount of precipitation varies; the southeastern part of the state averages 50 in. (127 cm.) of moisture per year, and the Panhandle averages 15 in. (38 cm.) of moisture in the year.

Major industries include agriculture (wheat, corn, hay, and melons). Oklahoma ranks fourth in the United States for cattle production and second in the production of wheat. The state is rich in fossil fuel deposits (petroleum, oil, natural gas, and coal). The Arkansas River contains a system of lakes and dams to control flooding, ensure waterway transportation, provide water, and generate hydroelectric power. The largest aquifer in the world, Ogallala Aquifer, lies underground beneath eight states, including Oklahoma. The level of water in the aquifer has been dropping steadily for decades, and it is a limited resource. With conservation measures, the rate of depletion has slowed, but not stopped.

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