Originally created 09/22/96

Fall into Autumn



Morning temperatures in Augusta have already dipped into the 50s, making area residents think of pumpkins, leaves changing colors and cool Friday nights in high-school football stadiums.

But fall doesn't start officially until 2 p.m. Sunday. Those recent cool spells came at the end of a cooler-than-average summer.

"Oh yeah, it was a nice summer," North Augusta resident Georgia Tillman said before taking a walk on the Riverwalk at 8:45 a.m. Thursday, when the air was cool and the sky clear.

"It hasn't been as hot as other summers," confirmed Milt Brown of the Southeast Regional Climate Center in Columbia. "I think the worst part was before the summer officially began, in May and the first part of June."

Average temperatures were down throughout the summer, and rare was the day when the high exceeded 94 degrees, meteorologists said. Although Georgia's familiar humidity certainly didn't take a vacation, Augusta residents and visitors were treated to a relatively mild three months.

Bob Smith, chief meteorologist at television station WRDW (Channel 12), said August was especially cool - or at least less hot than usual. The average temperature for the month was down 1.8 degrees from the norm.

"It may not sound like much, but when you average it out over a month, two degrees is considerable," Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Smith said there was only one day this summer - July 2 - when temperatures reached 100 degrees; only seven hit 95 degrees. He attributed the mild summer to tropical air that hovered over the Southeast throughout the season, keeping temperatures more or less uniform.

And with rainfall exceeding normal levels by 30 percent from June to August, crops did fine, Mr. Brown said.

So now comes the fall.

Will the days continue to be a little chillier than the average for this time of year?

Mr. Smith said he thinks they will, at least through October.

"I think in the short term it will be a little cooler than normal," he said. "But the atmosphere tends to balance itself out. If temperatures are slightly below normal for a while, they tend to be slightly above normal after that. Wintertime may be a little above normal."

The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md., is calling for near-normal temperatures and rainfall this fall, meteorologist David Unger said. But fall is a difficult season to forecast because it's a transitional period between the extremes of summer and winter, he said.

Ms. Tillman of North Augusta was ready for fall and beyond Thursday, when only a few scattered fingers of cotton-white clouds broke up a beautiful blue sky.

"We might be in for a nice, long, cold winter," said Ms. Tillman, 62, as she gripped and curled pink and green weights before starting her walk. "I always say we need three nice cold months. That would be perfect."

And what would she do with such perfect weather? "I plan to get out and get myself in shape," she said.