Published on 04/22/02

Drought Expected to Worsen in Georgia

As Georgia starts its fifth year of drought, dry conditions are expected to worsen. The long-lead climate outlooks for May are for an increased probability of below-normal rain and above-normal temperatures.

The summer (June through August) outlooks for Georgia are for an increased probability of above-normal temperatures across the entire state. The rainfall outlook is for equal chances of below-normal, near-normal and above-normal rain statewide.

The long-lead climate outlooks are from the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center.

Likely to Get Drier>

From May through October, Georgia soils generally lose moisture due to evaporation and transpiration (plant water use). So even with normal temperatures and rainfall, the soils in Georgia become drier from late spring through early fall.

With early indications that the summer will be hotter than normal, soil-moisture loss due to evaporation and transpiration may be greater than normal. This increase in soil-moisture loss will tend to increase the drought's severity.

Groundwater levels in south Georgia are of special concern. Most U.S. Geological Survey observation wells are at midsummer levels already.

South Georgia didn't get enough rain during the winter recharge period to replenish groundwater supplies. With levels this low in late April, dry wells may become a problem later in the summer.

Stream Flow Levels Low>

Flow rates on most rivers and creeks across the state remain very low. The low flows in coastal Georgia aren't good news for the shrimping and crabbing industries. The low stream flows in southeast Georgia are associated with lower white shrimp and blue crab landings.

The outlook for breaking the drought is not promising. Even with normal weather, the soils across the state will continue to lose moisture, and stream and reservoir levels will continue to drop. Watering bans will likely remain in place and may become more restrictive as the summer heat intensifies.

The University of Georgia will have daily updated drought information at Daily updated weather data is available from UGA Engineering's Georgia Environmental Monitoring Network at

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.