By comparison, the current drought has affected a smaller part of the state with less effect on water supplies.
More of the state is being affected by drought now than at the worst periods of the 2007-2009 drought.
In the worst-hit areas, farmers have reported their farm ponds completely drying up — leaving nothing but cracked mud and fish bones behind — something they did not see in the 2007-2009 drought.
Groundwater levels in the lower Flint River basin are, in many cases, at or near record lows. Stream flows across the state have also been very low during the recent weeks except immediately after rain events.
The outlook for winter precipitation is uncertain. Originally, an El Nino weather pattern was predicted to occur this winter. This was excellent news, since El Nino is usually associated with above-normal-rainfall across Georgia. However, the El Nino fizzled early, and now we are in neutral conditions — with neither an El Nino nor La Nina present to steer storms towards or away from Georgia.
In neutral conditions, we know that the state is equally likely to receive normal, below normal and normal amounts of precipitation.
There is only a 33% chance of getting above normal rainfall based on statistics for neutral years. This means that spring soil moisture could be of critical concern to farmers, since germination and plant development depend on having adequate supplies of soil moisture.
Low stream flows and falling ground water levels, especially in the Flint River basin, could affect southwest Georgia farmers' ability to irrigate their fields in the coming months.
Soil moisture helps insulate soil from extreme temperature changes, so Georgia's currently dry soils may experience more extreme temperature changes in farmers' fields and could result in increased damage to plants.
- Pam Knox is the University of Georgia Agricultural climatologist and program specialist in UGA Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.