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Officials expect hotter, drier summer

Photo by Sharra Klug

Photo by Sharra Klug

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

State climate officials anticipate Georgia's hot, and abnormally dry weather may continue for several more weeks, deep into the summer.

"The lack of moisture locally argues for a drier-than-normal summer," said State Climatologist David Emory Stooksbury in his annual summer climate outlook, published this week. "Through at least the middle of August, most of Georgia will likely be warmer, and drier, than normal."

Most of the state is enveloped in moderate, to extreme drought conditions, according to data from the National Drought Mitigation Center's U.S. Drought Monitor. Extreme drought conditions quickly set in over the southern half of the state during the month of May, while dry conditions slowly swept through the northern half.

The Drought Monitor last reported drought-free conditions in Georgia on July 27, 2010. The last time the Drought Monitor reported no dry conditions in the state was May 18, 2010.

Stooksbury's assistant state climatologist, Pam Knox, said the driest areas of the state were the south-central and southwest regions.

Knox said the southern three-quarters of the state was in drought conditions by late May, with more than 50 percent of the state's geography suffering extreme drought conditions.

"Rain was scarce, and drought expanded across Georgia in May," explained Knox.

The assistant state climatologist said temperatures were also above normal everywhere in Georgia for a fourth straight month in May, which she reported was the ninth warmest May in Atlanta since 1878.

Stooksbury said Georgia has been warmer and drier than normal since March, and will likely continue to be so for the next several weeks.

"Even with normal temperatures and rain during the summer, the soils across Georgia continue to dry, and stream flows drop," Stooksbury said. "Even if Georgia receives normal rain this summer, the drought is expected to continue. Drought and warmer-than-normal temperatures go together and typically reinforce each other."

Stooksbury said much of the rain Georgia receives during the summer is from scattered afternoon and evening thunderstorms. During droughts, however, it is common for a region to experience 'sinking air' from higher up in the atmosphere, which makes it difficult for scattered afternoon and evening thunderstorms to develop.

"By the middle of August, the tropics are usually becoming very active," said the state climatologist. "Much of Georgia's late summer and fall rains come from tropical weather systems such as tropical storms or hurricanes.

"This hurricane season is expected to be more active than normal," he continued. "Unfortunately, atmospheric scientists do not have the ability to forecast how many of the storms will make landfall. An active hurricane season gives us no guidance on the chances of Georgia experiencing tropical weather."

Stooksbury said that if Georgia receives tropical weather, widespread temporary drought relief could occur. Also, if the tropical activity occurs earlier than typical, warmer and drier-than-normal weather could end earlier than expected this summer. However, if the state does not receive tropical weather this summer, the current drought will likely persist into fall.