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Warm and dry March causes soil moisture shortages

March 2015 was warmer and drier than normal for most of Georgia.  While the warmth helped encourage rapid growth of planted corn and other crops, cold conditions late in the month may have caused some damage to fruit blossoms.  The warm and dry conditions also increased soil moisture shortages across the region.

In Atlanta, the monthly average temperature was 57.6 degrees F (3.3 degrees above normal), in Athens 56.8 degrees (2.5 degrees above normal), Columbus 60.0 (2.2 degrees above normal), Macon 58.4 (1.6 above normal), Savannah 62.0 (2.8 above normal), Brunswick 62.0 (1.7 above normal), Alma 62.1 (1.9 above normal), Augusta 58.3 (2.4 above normal), Albany 63.0 (3.8 above normal) and Valdosta 64.6 (4.5 above normal).

The thermograph for Athens shows that for most of the month, both maximum and minimum temperatures were above their normal values.  Athens set a record high on March 16 of 87 F, breaking the old record of 85 F set in 2012.  Savannah set a record high of 87 F on March 11, surpassing the old record of 85 F set in 1990.  Several record highs were also tied during the month.  The cold temperatures near the end of the month can also be seen.  On March 29, Macon set a new daily record low of 27 F, breaking the old record of 30 F set in 1966.

athens thermograph mar 2015

The highest monthly total precipitation from National Weather Service reporting stations was 3.04 inches in Augusta (1.14 inches below normal) and the lowest was in Savannah at 2.02 inches (1.71 inches below normal).  Atlanta received 2.98 inches (1.83 below normal), Athens received 2.79 inches (1.64 below normal), Macon received 2.28 inches (2.27 below normal), Columbus 2.46 (3.00 below normal), Albany 2.17 inches (2.88 below normal), Brunswick 2.37 inches (1.51 below normal), Alma 2.51inches (2.24 below normal) and Valdosta 2.50 inches (2.37 below normal).

mar_15_precip    mar_15_precip_dep

No daily rainfall records were set in March this year.

The highest single-day rainfall from CoCoRaHS stations was 1.93 inches near Lake Park in Lowndes County on March 23, followed by a Thomas County observer in Thomasville reporting 1.88 inches on the same date. The highest monthly total rainfall was 7.49 inches, observed by an observer east of Helen in White County, followed by 5.18 inches measured near Cherry Log in Fannin County and 5.17 inches measured near Ringgold in Catoosa County.  A small amount of snow was reported by several observers on March 6.

There was only one day with severe weather in the state in March.  On the last day of the month, strong winds and scattered hail were observed at a number of locations around the state.  This is the first time since official records began in 1950 that there was not a single tornado observed in the Southeast in March.  Georgia also did not have a tornado in March in 2014.

Planting is in high gear across the state.  Soil temperatures increased quickly in the warm and dry conditions and observers in southern Georgia reported rapid growth in planted corn.  The dry conditions were a concern to some farmers worried about germination.  Abnormally dry conditions expanded from nine to 42 percent of the state over the month, according to the National Drought Monitor.

soil moisture mar 2015 take 2

Frost hit the northern half of Georgia late in the month.  Some damage to fruit blossoms that were in bloom at the time of the cold weather was expected to occur, but no estimates of damage were available at the time this report was written.  If you have damage to report, please send it to me at pknox@uga.edu.

The outlook for April shows that warmer and wetter than normal conditions should occur across most of Georgia for at least the first half of the month, with wetter than normal conditions expected to continue through June under the influence of the current El Nino.  This should help to alleviate the current dryness.  Warmer than normal conditions have a slightly above average chance of occurrence over summer and fall based on long-term trends in temperature.

For updates, please visit my blog at http://site.extension.uga.edu/climate or my web page at http://gaclimate.org.