Published on 03/05/01

March Rains Far From End to Drought

Graphic: U.S. Climate Prediction Center

The Seasonal U.S. Drought Outlook through May 2001 (released Feb. 16) depicts long-term trends. Short-term events such as individual storms cannot be accurately forecast more than a few days in advance.
Early March rains have caused some minor flooding in central Georgia but have brought little relief from the drought. Without substantial additional rains, the three-year drought will persist through the summer across the state.

West central and central Georgia received generous rain over the weekend, with Americus reporting 5.0 inches, Buena Vista 5.1, Butler 3.9, Columbus reporting 5.0, Covington 2.4, Macon 3.5, Milledgeville 4.8, Montezuma 3.8, Sandersville 3.4 and Talbotton 4.9.

Most Amounts More Modest

Lesser amounts were reported elsewhere in the state. North Georgia examples include Cartersville receiving 1.0 inches, Lafayette 0.9, Athens 1.7, Atlanta 1.8, Blairsville 0.5 and Carnesville 1.1.

East central Georgia examples include Augusta receiving 1.9 inches, Louisville 2.5 and Warrenton 2.9.

Across south Georgia, Cairo had 2.6 inches, Camilla 4.4, Douglas 2.4, Tifton 2.8, Alma 0.6, Brunswick 0.5, Folkston 1.1, Jesup 0.7, Savannah 1.1 and Waycross 0.9.

Rainfall Deficits the Rule

Even with recent rains, most locations in Georgia are reporting rainfall deficits for the year. The exceptions are portions of Bartow, Floyd, Haralson, Paulding and Polk counties in northwest Georgia. For the year, Athens is 2.27 inches below normal, Atlanta 2.15, Augusta 2.01, Columbus 1.59, Macon 2.71, Savannah 3.86 and Tifton 4.74.

These values have improved over the past week. However, with normal weekly rainfall ranging from 1.1 to 1.4 inches across the state, conditions can quickly deteriorate if the rain doesn't continue.

Graphic: U.S. Climate Prediction Center

Even with the recent rains, national Climate Prediction Center models indicate that soil moisture remains very low across north and south Georgia. Recent rains have brought soil moisture levels across the central part of the state to near normal.

Stream Flows Improve

Stream flows have shown recovery from record to near-record low flows late last week. However without additional rains, this recovery will be short-lived, and streams will return to extremely low levels.

Even with the helpful recent rains, drought conditions are expected to continue across the state. We will need several more rains like last weekend's to have any significant, long-lasting impacts on the drought in Georgia.

Pam Knox is the director of the UGA Weather Network and serves as an agricultural climatologist with the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences.

David Emory Stooksbury is associate professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.