Published on 08/03/99

Intense Heat Worsens Drought in Georgia

ATHENS, Ga. -- Three weeks of sparse rain and intense heat, with highs in the 90s to well over 100 across north and middle Georgia, have worsened drought conditions.

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The Georgia Agriculture Statistical Service reports that moisture is short to very short in 59 percent of the state's soils. Last year at this time, soil moisture was rated as short to very short in 48 percent of the soils.

Soil moisture loss from evapotranspiration ranged from 1.5 to 1.75 inches across the state last week.

Lack of soil moisture caused crops to deteriorate, especially across north and middle Georgia. Soils are becoming drier, too, in south Georgia, which has benefitted from scattered thunderstorms.

A good indicator of the soil moisture available for the growth of crops and pastures is the Crop Moisture Index.

The CMI shows that the northeast, west-central, southwest and south-central regions are abnormally dry, and crop prospects are deteriorating.

It points out that top soil moisture is short in north-central, central and east-central Georgia. Northwest and southeast Georgia have adequate soil moisture for current crop needs.

The Palmer Drought Severity Index is a long-term drought measurement and changes slowly from week to week. It was designed to measure long-term meteorological drought.

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The PDSI classifies northeast, west-central, central, southwest and south-central Georgia as being in moderate drought. The north-central, east-central and southeast parts of the state are in mild drought, and northwest Georgia is near normal.

From the middle of June through mid-July, generous rainfall had allowed soil moisture to improve statewide. By the middle of July, drought conditions across Georgia had shown a dramatic improvement. Parts of the state, especially the southeast, were drought-free.

Since mid-July, though, the north, middle and parts of south Georgia have had very little rain. For July 15 through Aug. 1, the rainfall in major cities was: Athens, 0.37 inches; Atlanta, 1.39; Augusta, 0.06; Columbus, 1.47; Macon, 0.55; and Savannah, 1.47.

Blairsville, Dearing, Eatonton, Griffin and Williamson reported less than one-half inch of rain between July 15 and Aug. 1.

Many south Georgia locations had more than 2 inches of rain during the same period. Notable rainfall totals include 5.00 inches in Arlington, 3.78 in Camilla, 5.22 in Dawson, 4.04 in Newton, 4.37 in Pine Mountain, 3.93 in Tifton and 3.75 in Valdosta.

You can get updates on current moisture conditions at the University of Georgia moisture web site. Or contact your county extension agent.

The rainfall data is from the UGA Automated Environmental Monitoring Network and the National Weather Service.

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