Georgia beginning to heat up, experts say

Janet Sewell of Aiken jogs on Riverwalk Augusta. A climatologist says Georgia has had a small cooling trend since 1998, but models predict further warming.

Georgia got cooler through much of the 20th century, but since about 1970, it’s been getting warmer like the rest of the globe, says University of Georgia climatologist Pam Knox, a former assistant state climatologist.

 

While the state is getting about the same amount of rain and snow that fell on Geor­gia a century ago, the way it’s falling is changing, she said at a campus symposium on climate change last week.

“It’s more likely to be in high-intensity bursts now,” she said.

In between those flood-producing downpours, the state is getting more drought, she said.

Gov. Nathan Deal fired Knox and state Climatologist David Stooksbury in Septem­ber, replacing them with a meteorologist in the state En­viron­mental Protection Division.

Like much of the nation, Georgia was very hot and dry in the 1930s and 1940s, due somewhat to fewer volcanoes erupting around the world, Knox said. Volcanic
particles help to reflect the sun’s energy back into space.

But from then until around 1970 or so, the state’s average temperature cooled – at least in part because of a big change in land cover, Knox said.

Georgia lost much of its forest cover in the late 19th and early 20th century, cut down for timber or cleared for cotton fields.

Through much of the middle and late 20th century, the amount of forest in Georgia increased, and now the
state is about 70 percent forest.

Since about 1970, rising temperatures in Georgia have matched rising global temperatures – except for the period from 1998 to now, a small cooling trend.

Knox expects Georgia to keep warming in the immediate future, however.

“Most models agree that temperatures will increase. How much is another question, and how
much at day and at night,” she said.

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