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Severe Drought Conditions Continue Across Georgia

In spite of some May rains, severe drought continues across parts of Georgia. The northeast mountains, as well as central and southeast Georgia, are having severe drought conditions, based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index, calculated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center. The rest of the state is in moderate drought, except in the northwest corner. There, borderline drought conditions prevail.

Plantable but not recharged

Recent rains have increased upper soil moisture and allowed farmers to continue planting in southwest and south- central Georgia. However, the rain has not been enough to recharge the soil moisture. The soil moisture has declined, especially across middle and southeast Georgia, during the past week.

Continuing dry conditions

Soil moisture could quickly become inadequate if the state doesn't have a major rain in the next week. Unfortunately, the prospects for moisture are poor. Cool nights and mild days have kept soil moisture loss from evaporation and transpiration at a minimum this spring. However, temperatures in south and central Georgia will be in the middle to upper 80s by the end of the week.

Results and long-term predictions

These warmer days will increase the soil moisture loss and the stress on plants that lack well-developed root systems. The Climate Prediction Center calls for an increased likelihood of warmer-than-normal weather for June through August. That would increase the loss of moisture from the soil. The precipitation outlook for June through August is for an equal chance of below-normal, normal or above- normal rain amounts.

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

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