Record warm nights yield to dry conditions

By Johnny Jackson


Drought conditions continue to increase around the Southeast region and across Georgia, according to state climate officials.

"We're certainly in a dry spell," said Assistant State Climatologist Pam Knox. "We've had a persistent high pressure [system] over us. When you have [high pressure and] clearer conditions and no rain, it keeps precipitation from coming over us."

The National Drought Mitigation Center is set to release its updated U.S. Drought Monitor report today. Its report from Sept. 7 reveals that an increasing number of counties in northern Georgia are experiencing abnormally dry conditions.

The report suggests that hefty amounts of precipitation in mid-August initially reduced the land area stricken by dry- and drought-like conditions that, at one point in August, encompassed nearly 68 percent of the state's land mass.

However, drier conditions have quickly returned to the state. The report indicates that only about 53 percent of the state was reported to be free of drought conditions.

October is typically the driest month of the year, said Knox. But such conditions have reached Georgia early this year.

"We do know that we're in a La Nina pattern, and it's a strong La Nina," she said. "In a La Nina, we tend to have warmer, drier conditions in Georgia, and that usually goes into the winter."

Most counties within the Southern Crescent area, including Clayton and Henry counties, have received less than .25 inches of rain in the past two weeks, which is about an inch below normal for this time of year, according to reports from the National Weather Service.

Though the growing season is coming to an end, Knox continued, the rainfall deficit may require residents to do some additional outdoor watering. She advises residents to review local water restrictions, before using water outdoors.

"Generally, the rule of thumb is about an inch a week," she said. "Since, we haven't been getting any rain, it's appropriate for people to start watering their lawn."

The state climate official said the lack of rain supports conditions for warmer weather, as well as increased air pollution. She said this past summer was one of the warmest on record for Georgia.

"Relatively speaking," Knox said, "the nights have been warmer than the days have." She said that, though daytime high temperatures were consistently high, some records were set with this summer's abnormally warm night-time temperatures.

"We went from having one of the coolest winters in decades to one of the warmest summers in decades," said Jeff Wilson, spokesman for Georgia Power.

Wilson said the electric utility company saw a 13-percent increase in electricity usage among residential customers, from June through August, compared to the same period last year.

"That was a direct result of the high temperatures," Wilson said. "It was certainly one of the warmest summers we've seen in 30 years around the state of Georgia."

State Climatologist David Stooksbury, in his Sept. 8, climate report, said that the warmer, drier-than-normal weather is likely to continue through this winter, and [into a possible] drought next year."

"The La Nina pattern is often the pattern that leads to a summertime drought," said Stooksbury. "Thus, there is an increased probability that Georgia could experience a drought in 2011."