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Warm, dry summer, active hurricane season ahead

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Weather experts say Georgians should expect a relatively warm and dry summer, but will likely see an active hurricane season.

State Climatologist David Emory Stooksbury released his outlook for the summer this week, anticipating a warmer, and drier-than-normal summer in Georgia. He noted that the warmer, drier conditions will likely last through early August.

"Temperatures and rainfall in late summer and early fall will depend on the number and tracks of tropical weather systems," he said in his report.

Early summers which follow El Nino winter-climate patterns, similar to last winter, are typically warmer and drier than normal, said Stooksbury. He expects water resources to remain healthy across the state throughout this summer, due to the abundance of rain this past winter and early spring.

Temperatures have been above average lately, with higher-than-average rainfall amounts, according to Robert Garcia, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Garcia said Wednesday that readings at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport have tallied 3.09 inches of rain, so far, in the month of June. The amount, through June 15, was 1.4 inches above normal.

Rainfall amounts may increase through the week, he added, as there is a 20 percent chance of scattered showers and thunderstorms daily, through Sunday night. Highs are expected to be in the lower 90s, and lows in the upper 60s.

Garcia also noted that the number of tropical storms this summer is expected to be above normal.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center projected a 70 percent probability of there being 14 to 23 named storms this hurricane season, with 8 to 14 reaching hurricane strength, and 3 to 7 possibly becoming major hurricanes.

"In 2009, we had a below-average hurricane season," said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Feltgen said last year's hurricane season produced nine named storms, in which only two tropical storms made land fall -- both in the Gulf Coast. He reiterated, however, the significance of being prepared for any storm. "It's important to have that hurricane plan in place," he said. "You need to figure out if your home is safe to wind, or to water. You should have three-to-five days of non-perishable food stowed away. And you should have an evacuation route. These are all things you need to be thinking of."

Historically, the East Coast, including Georgia, is more likely to be directly impacted by hurricanes when the atmosphere is in the La Nina climate pattern, added State Climatologist Stooksbury, who said the atmosphere is transitioning from an El Nino pattern to a neutral climate pattern that favors the formation of tropical weather systems.

"There is a good chance that atmosphere will be near transition to, or in a La Nina by the heart of hurricane season," Stooksbury said. "It is too early to know if this winter will bring a weak, moderate or strong La Nina climate pattern. If the La Nina climate pattern develops this winter, then Georgia may be set up for a drought in 2011."