Climate forecast

first_imgBy Dan RahnUniversity of GeorgiaIf you don’t like the weather we’ve been having in Georgia thissummer, you probably won’t like the forecast. The SoutheastClimate Consortium’s late-summer climate outlook for Georgia,Florida and Alabama calls for more of the same.Neutral conditions, or sea surface temperatures near normal inthe tropical Pacific Ocean, will continue for the foreseeablefuture, said Joel Paz, a Cooperative Extension agrometeorologistwith the University of Georgia College of Agricultural andEnvironmental Sciences.Paz tracks climate patterns as part of a team of researchers whooffer advice on neutral, El Niño and La Niña phases through theSECC. The group, which includes Florida’s state climatologistDavid Zierden and his Georgia counterpart David Stooksbury,shares its weather knowledge online at www.agclimate.org.”After brief La Niña-like conditions last winter and spring, seasurface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean returned tonormal in April,” Paz said. “These temperatures should remain inthe normal range for the rest of the summer and into the fall.”More of the sameGenerally, that means continued variable temperature and rainfallpatterns.The mild La Niña helped dry out the Southeast during the latewinter and spring, Paz said. But it dissipated at the end ofApril and “hasn’t been a player in our climate patterns over thepast two months.”Tropical Storm Alberto brought beneficial rains to southeastGeorgia in mid-June. But the seasonal summer rains since thenhave been very scattered and inconsistent in most of the state,he said.”Between the La Niña winter and spring and the very dry earlysummer, year-to-date rainfall deficits are high,” Paz said. Thesedeficits have caused critically low soil moisture levels foragriculture and other interests.VariablePredicting the summer climate for the Southeast as hot and humidis usually a pretty safe bet. “However, summer rainfall amountscan be highly variable, both in the year-to-year totals and inthe spatial coverage,” Paz said.Monitoring Pacific Ocean surface temperatures helps predict theclimate in the winter and spring. “But the influence of thePacific is generally much weaker during the summer,” Paz said.For the rest of the summer, expect conditions to stay relativelystable, he said. Georgia may remain fairly dry.Summer evapotranspiration rates typically exceed rainfall inGeorgia. So expect soil moisture, surface and groundwater levelsto remain low, even with a return to normal rainfall.Look for the tropics to begin heating up, too, he said, andbringing beneficial rainfall to all or parts of the region.”Everyone hopes to avoid a direct hit from a damaging hurricane,”he said. “But rainfall from tropical systems is a vital elementof our late summer and fall climate.”The 2006 tropical season has gotten off to a slow start comparedto last year, Paz said. But it’s likely to be another active one,according to Dr. William Gray and National Oceanic andAtmospheric Administration experts.The slow start this year is typical of the usual tropical season,he said. Activity usually begins in earnest in August andespecially September.(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of GeorgiaCollege of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)last_img

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