Climatologist: Georgia experiencing a 'quiet drought'

12/21/2012 03:21:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

Drought conditions in Georgia may be out of sight of some of the larger cities, but they're not out of mind.

The state is experiencing what University of Georgia climatologist Pam Knox refers to as a quiet drought that may be more severe in some places than the dry spell of 2007-09, according to a news release.

As of early December, about 14 percent of the state was experiencing exceptional drought conditions. Those are ones expected to occur on the average every 50 to 100 years.

The hardest hit area is a swath through central Georgia.

A few other areas in central Georgia have been experiencing extreme drought, the second most-serious classification, since May 2011.

But northern Georgia, which has large population centers and was the hardest hit area during 2007-09, isn't experiencing as serious conditions as the central part of the state.

Nevertheless, a larger expanse of the state is being affected by drought this year than during the worst periods of 2007-09.

Rainfall in mid-December provided temporary relief to some parts, particularly in northern Georgia.

But it did little to erase deficits of 20 inches below normal in 2012.

Tropical storms provide much of Georgia's summer and early fall moisture.

This season, the storms largely bypassed Georgia.

In addition, more than half the state received less than half its usual rainfall in September, October and November, reducing stream flow in many areas.

Groundwater levels in the lower Flint River basin are at or near record lows, also reducing stream flows.

At one time, forecasters predicted an El Niño, which typically brings above-normal rainfall to the state.

But that has changed, and now forecasters are predicting neutral conditions, which could mean normal or below-normal precipitation.

Under this forecast, the state has only a 33 percent chance of receiving above-normal rainfall.

More frequent cold spells, as well as increased frosts and freezes, also accompany neutral conditions.

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