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Climate Science: Local Voices on Climate Change

Athens Climate Summary Spring 2019

By David Emory Stooksbury

Atmospheric scientists define spring as 1 March through 31 May. Spring 2019 for Athens averaged above normal temperatures and below normal rainfall.

The average high temperature for spring 2019 was 76.2 oF which is 2.2 oF above normal. This made this spring the 8th warmest based on high temperatures. The average low temperature for the spring was 52.5 oF, which is 2.4 oF above normal. The average low temperature was tied for 5th warmest. The average temperature for spring was 64.3 oF which is 2.3 oF above normal. Based on the average temperature, spring 2019 was the 6th warmest. With these warm temperatures, the cooling demand for spring was 71% above normal.

The spring was abnormally dry. The total rainfall was 7.09 inches which is 3.49 inches below normal. This follows a wet winter which was under the influence of a weak El Niño atmospheric pattern. It is typical that Georgia’s climate turns dry following an El Niño winter.

May was particularly warm and dry. The average May 2019 high temperature was 87.3 oF which is 5.5 oF above normal. May 2019 was the 3rd warmest May based on average high temperature. The low temperature average was 63.7 oF which is 5.5 oF above normal. Athens experience its warmest May average low temperature based on the records from Ben Epps Field. The average temperature was 75.5 oF which is 5.5 oF above normal. Based on the average temperature, May was the warmest on record at Ben Epps.

The most impressive temperature statistics for May is the number of days 95 oF or hotter. In May 2019, Athens experienced 7 days with a high temperature of 95 oF or higher. This was 6.8 days more than normal which ranked May 2019 with the highest number of days at or above 95 oF. Twelve days in May were 90 oF or higher which is 8.6 day more than normal. The number of May days with temperatures 90 oF or higher was ranked 3rd. The cooling demand was 85% above normal in May. Total rainfall for May was 1.62 inches which is 1.38 inches below normal.

The good news is that thanks to a surge of tropical moisture Athens should be very wet through the weekend. Some of the models are forecasting more than five inches of rain through early next week.

Notes on the data: The data is from NOAA’s Southeast Regional Climate Center located at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. The climate record at Athens’s Ben Epps Field starts on 1 June 1944. All ranks are based on the entire period of record from Ben Epps. Deviations from normal are based on NOAA’s 1981 – 2010 normals for Ben Epps. Normals are updated every ten-years and reflect the averages for the preceding 30 years. Normals will be updated in 2021 and will reflect the averages from 1991 through 2020.

*Dr. Stooksbury will have a column explaining the current drought in Georgia next week.

David Emory Stooksbury is on the engineering and atmospheric sciences faculties at the University of Georgia. He is chair of the Commission on Environmental Stewardship for the Episcopal Dioceses of Atlanta. While a student at UGA, he majored in plant genetics (B.S.A.), physics and astronomy (B.S.P.A.) and agronomy (M.S.). He completed additional graduate work in applied statistics (M.A.S. Penn State) and environmental sciences (Ph.D. Virginia).

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