September 24, 2013

2013 one of wettest years on record

Charles Oliver

— If it seems like northwest Georgia has seen more rainfall than normal this year, it has.

Bill Murphey, Georgia state climatologist, said Chattanooga, the closest place for which he had rainfall data, is running about 45 percent above average for the year.

“They’ve had 54.51 inches of rain. That puts them 16.89 inches above normal,” Murphey said. “I’m sure there are some places in that region that have received even more rainfall than that,” he said.

So what’s behind all the wet stuff?

“There have been a lot of meteorological factors at work early this summer. We’ve been the western flank of the Atlantic high pressure system, the Bermuda High, and it has funneled in a lot of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean,” said Murphey.

The Bermuda High is a semi-permanent area of high atmospheric pressure that moves east and west.

Murphey says the subtropical jet stream — a fast-flowing air current in the upper atmosphere — has been both very active and has troughed or dipped, bringing in moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and bringing cooler-than-normal temperatures.

All this rain has wreaked havoc on area farms and gardens.

“Home gardens haven’t been producing well, largely because of fungal problems caused by the rain and the near constant wetness,” said Brenda Jackson, Whitfield County extension agent. “I’ve been seeing a lot of fungal problems, a lot of bacteria problems.”

“And farmers are telling me that they had issues just getting into their fields to plant. Some of them said they had to plant in stages as their fields dried out,” she added.

The good news is meteorologists are not looking for continued heavy rain.

“The three-month CPC (Climate Prediction Center) outlook calls for equal chance for above-, below- or normal precipitation for Georgia. The same applies to temperature, equal probability of above-, below- or normal temperatures for this time of the year,” Murphey said.

But that prediction may come too late for some local gardeners.

“There are a lot of people who grow fall vegetables,” Jackson said. “I don’t know how many will try it. A lot of the gardeners I’ve talked to say they’ve given up for the year because they were so frustrated.”