Drought predicted for this area

Published 6:59 am Monday, November 22, 2010

Participants at a forum held in Albany on Thursday are tentatively predicting a drought for the region.

Scientists and others say that drought conditions may develop in the Southeast due to a strengthening of the La Niña weather effect in the Pacific Ocean.

The seasonal climate outlook is being applied to the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin to help climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, water resources, natural resources and energy, plan for the upcoming winter season.

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“After a summer that can be characterized as one of the hottest on record, drought has begun to develop over much of the Southeast, with the exception of the Florida peninsula,” a report issued by the Southeast Climate Consortium states. “The three-month period of May-July ranked as the hottest on record (since 1895) for the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, while Florida ranked as the second hottest. Rainfall was generally below normal for much of the region, but was characterized by many observers as being more scattered or localized than in previous years.”

The report states that the current La Niña could push dryness farther north and inland.

“A strong La Niña will increase the likelihood that drought could develop in critical watersheds like those that feed Lake Lanier in northern Georgia,” the report said.

Southwest Georgia was spared a hurricane, tropical storm or depression this year, and the report says most of the Southeast now is in the beginning phases of a drought. That the situation is likely to worsen as the fall season continues.

Temperatures are also predicted to stay warmer during the winter, the report says. These warmer temperatures will impact winter crops and fruit production, resulting in less chill accumulation, which could affect the peach crop.

“Wildfires will also be a concern, where studies show that La Niña normally leads to an active wildfire season in Florida and south Georgia,” the report states.