Rainfall in metro Atlanta on track; drought emerging in Middle, South Georgia

By David Pendered

As amazing as it may seem after heavy rain on Sunday and previous weekends, federal reports show the cumulative rainfall in metro Atlanta is about on track for this time of year, while moderate drought conditions are emerging in portions of Middle and South Georgia.

Georgia drought, may 7, 2019

Conditions of moderate drought and abnormally dry were reported across Middle and South Georgia in the May 7 edition of the U.S. Drought Monitor. Credit: droughtmonitor.unl.edu

Some two-thirds of the state is categorized as enduring abnormally dry conditions, and nearly a fifth of the state is in a moderate drought, according to the May 9 report by the U.S. Drought Monitor. More than 644,000 Georgians reside in drought areas, according to the report – roughly 6 percent of the state’s 10.5 million residents.

This dry area includes farmland where crops were devastated by wind and rain from Hurricane Michael in October 2018. The dry conditions are evident in soil moisture reports, where the May 6 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture observes the soil moisture is short or very short in a third of the area covered.

Rainfall amounts are more typical in metro Atlanta. Parts of North Georgia have recorded rainfall amounts well above average. That includes Union County, where more than 8 inches of rain above the mean was recorded during the first three months of the year.

Here are the anomalies of rainfall for the January through March period for the five counties that comprise metro Atlanta’s urban core. The figures represent inches above or below the mean rainfall recorded from 1901 through 2000:

  • Clayton – 0.93 inches below;
  • Cobb—0.33 inches below;
  • DeKalb – 0.1 inch below;
  • Fulton – 0.07 inches above;
  • Gwinnett – 1.6 inches above.

This climate information, and more, is available from a fairly new website provided by NOAA. NOAA’s newly formed National Centers for Environmental Information began providing in November 2018 a Climate at a Glance report for each of the nation’s counties.

brookhaven gullywasher

A rivulet formed alongside a granite curb in Brookhaven during a downpour Sunday. Credit: David Pendered

Pam Knox, an agriculture climatologist with the University of Georgia’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, highlighted NOAA’s site in her post on May 7.

Knox also provided a weekend forecast in her May 11 report that summarized both the potential for heavy rainfall and the relief it could provide areas of Georgia that are approaching drought conditions. Knox reported:

  • “This weekend most of the Southeast will see rain, and some of it could be substantial where thunderstorms occur. After that, the rain will mostly be confined to south Florida and Virginia. The rain could help to alleviate dry conditions in the areas that have been suffering from dry soils, and I hope farmers will be pleased by what they get.”

Moderate drought conditions affect roughly 40 counties in Middle and South Georgia, according to a count of counties in the latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Abnormally dry conditions affect all remaining counties in Middle and South Georgia, according to the report.

All the afflicted counties are located south of the Fall Line, the former coastline of Georgia that stretches from Augusta to Macon to Columbus along a corridor that’s about 20 miles wide, according to a report by georgiaencyclopedia.org.

Meantime, Sunday’s intermittent downpours didn’t dissuade lawn and garden shoppers in Chamblee.

At a big box home supply store in Chamblee, children pulled carts while adults filled them with a few plants and bags of fertilizer. It wasn’t a big shopping trip for most, and they arrived well in time to get what may be their last plants of the season in the ground before dark.

 

The green line shows the rainfall recorded in Fulton County in the month of April for the years 1895 through 2019. The horizontal line represents the mean rainfall in April during the period. The website provides similar reports for every county in the nation. Credit: ncdc.noaa.gov

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

1 reply
  1. Avatar
    Ed Dixon says:

    Interesting NOAA calculator website. Sorts precipitation levels since 1895. Seven of the ten driest 12-month periods in Georgia have occurred since 1980. Four of the wettest ten 12-month periods have occurred since 1992. Since 1992, Georgia has experienced eight of the top 20 extreme precipitation or drought years. One in three chance there will be too much or too little rain.Report

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.