Exceptional drought

first_imgBy David Emory StooksburyUniversity of GeorgiaScattered showers and thunderstorms slowed Georgia’s slide intodeeper drought during June and July. While conditionsdeteriorated more slowly, northwest and southwest Georgia stillslid into exceptional drought.Bountiful rains have greatly improved conditions in southeast andcoastal Georgia. Parts of inland southeast Georgia, 12 countiesin all, are no longer classified as being in drought.Of Georgia’s remaining 147 counties, drought conditions areexceptional in 37, extreme in 55, severe in 16, moderate in 21and mild in 10, with eight abnormally dry.In late June, no counties were in exceptional drought, butconditions were extreme in 104 and severe in 38. Then, conditionswere moderate in just 15 and mild in only two, and no county wasjust abnormally dry or not in drought.Exceptional drought conditions are expected about once in 100years. This is based on many indicators, including rainfall sinceOct. 1 and over the past 180, 90, 30 and 14 days, soil moisture,stream flows, groundwater levels and reservoir levels.Northwest, southwest counties scorchedThese exceptional conditions have developed in 23 northwestGeorgia counties: Bartow, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee,Cobb, Coweta, Dade, Douglas, Floyd, Fulton, Gilmer, Gordon,Haralson, Harris, Heard, Murray, Paulding, Pickens, Polk, Troup,Walker and Whitfield.In southwest Georgia, 14 counties now have exceptional droughtconditions: Baker, Calhoun, Clay, Decatur, Dougherty, Early,Grady, Miller, Mitchell, Quitman, Randolph, Seminole, Terrell andThomas.Soil moisture is near the first percentile in northwest andsouthwest Georgia. At this level, we would expect the soil to bemoister in 99 of 100 years.Several streams in southwest and northwest Georgia are at recordlow flows for early August. These include Ichawaynochaway Creeknear Milford, Spring Creek near Iron City, the Flint River atBainbridge, Cedar Creek near Cedartown and the Oostanaula Rivernear Rome.Other rivers setting record low flows for the date are the Flintnear Griffin and the Chattooga near Clayton.Soil moisture droppingWith temperatures hovering around 100 and many regions gettinglittle to no rain over the past seven to 10 days, soil moisturelevels are dropping quickly statewide.Soil moisture loss to evaporation and plant use is now runningbetween one-quarter and one-third of an inch per day. If theAugust trend of hot days with little to no rain continues, theregions in relatively good shape could find conditionsdeteriorating quickly.Severe drought conditions are in Atkinson, Clinch, Crawford,Crisp, Dooly, Greene, Irwin, Jasper, Lincoln, Macon, Monroe,Peach, Putnam, Taliaferro, Turner and Wilkes counties.Short-term moisture deficits have caused drought conditions todeteriorate especially in the central and southern Savannah RiverValley. Rainfall over the past month has been between 50 percentand 70 percent of normal.Deteriorating conditions have resulted in moderate drought inBulloch, Burke, Columbia, Effingham, Evans, Glascock, Jenkins,McDuffie, Screven, Richmond and Warren counties.Moderate conditions are also in Baldwin, Bibb, Ben Hill, Coffee,Hancock, Houston, Jones, Pulaski, Ware and Wilcox counties.Drought conditions are mild in Bacon, Bleckley, Dodge, JeffDavis, Jefferson, Pierce, Telfair, Twiggs, Washington andWilkinson counties.Helpful rainsMuch of coastal and southeast Georgia had bountiful rains in Juneand July. However, rainfall deficits for the water year (sinceOct. 1) leave eight of these counties classified as abnormallydry: Brantley, Bryan, Camden, Charlton, Chatham, Glynn, Libertyand McIntosh.The summer rains have brought Appling, Candler, Emanuel, Johnson,Laurens, Long, Montgomery, Tattnall, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne andWheeler counties back to normal conditions.In these counties rainfall for the water year and the past 180,90, 30 and 14 days has been near or above normal. Soil moisturelevels are near normal for early August.Because of the sandy nature of these counties’ soils, however,agricultural drought can develop quickly if temperatures remainin the middle to upper 90s with little to no rain.Extreme droughtThe remaining 55 Georgia counties are in extreme drought,including most of south-central, west-central, north-central andnortheast Georgia.Across the extreme drought region, soil moisture levels arebetween the 2nd and 5th percentiles. At these levels, we wouldexpect soils to be moister in 95 to 98 of 100 years.Stream flows in this region are generally between the 2nd and 5thpercentiles. With little rain and 100-degree temperatures overthe past week, many of these streams are nearing record lowlevels.Groundwater levels remain low statewide for this time of the year.Relief?No widespread relief is foreseeable. In August and September, thebest hope for widespread drought relief is from tropical weathersystems. Without these, we can expect the drought to worsen overthe next two months.If dry conditions continue, high temperatures during August canbe expected to remain in the middle 90s to low 100s across thepiedmont and coastal plain. The Georgia mountains can expecttemperatures in the upper 80s to middle 90s.Get updated drought information at www.georgiadrought.org.The state drought Web site includes information on how to dealwith the drought.Updated weather information is at www.georgiaweather.net.This University of Georgia network has 71 automated weatherstations statewide.(David Emory Stooksbury is the state climatologist and aprofessor of engineering and atmospheric sciences in theUniversity of Georgia College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences.)last_img

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