When you have regular droughts or ones over a 15-year span, when does it stop being an abnormal weather pattern and become your new climate?
That’s a tough question to answer. Stooksbury said this weather pattern is similar to one Georgia experienced from the mid-1920s through the mid-1930s, so it could be part of a periodic cycle.
Or it could indicate the new direction the Southeastern climate is headed. Climatologists won’t be able to tell for about 10 more years.
“Our computer models don’t help us on this,” Stooksbury said. “That’s one of the frustrations. The computer long-term climate models for the Southeast are all over the place. Some have us wetter, some drier. Some have us wetter but with much more variability.”
Marshall Shepherd, director of the Atmospheric Sciences program at the University of Georgia, pointed to Columbia University research after the drought that ended in 2008.
“The frequency and perhaps intensity of droughts is consistent with what models say would occur with climate change,” he said.
“There is likely some shift in our climate that is occurring and creating new norms,” said Tom Mote, head of the UGA Geography department. “(The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) recently released its new 30-year climate normals, and ours are now warmer and drier than they were.”
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