Although Atlanta temperatures didn’t spike high in to the 100s frequently in 2016, consistently hot days made it the warmest ever on record, according to Jordan McLeod at the Southeast Regional Climate Center.
“We didn’t necessarily see a bunch of record breaking daily temperatures, you know, 110 or whatever,” said McLeod. “It was just this very persistent pattern of unusual warmth across the southeast that was really the calling card for this year’s pattern.”
On 136 days this year, Atlanta’s high exceeded 85 degrees, McLeod said. That’s about one-third of the year.
“The record breaking warmth that we observed this year is certainly consistent with climate change, and what we expect to observe from climate change moving into the future,” said McLeod.
McLeod expects Georgia as a whole broke heat records in 2016.
Much of Georgia is currently experiencing “extreme drought” conditions according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Drought affected Georgia for much of the year. The state imposed water restrictions in 52 counties, including metro Atlanta, limiting things like car washing and ornamental fountains.
In the South Georgia cities of Plains and Montezuma there was no rain for 72 straight days.
But McLeod said Atlanta got slightly more rain than many parts of the state, even though it still didn’t get much. The city had its eighteenth driest year on record, he said.
McLeod suggested Atlanta might have fared better because of heat build-up on the city’s concrete surfaces.
“They retain their heat much, much more efficiently than land cover in rural areas,” he said.
That heat can lead to more thunderstorms and ultimately more rain.
“Warmth can kind of provide a little extra fuel for either pre-existing thunderstorms,” and during the summer, McLeod said, the city can actually generate its own thunderstorms.
McLeod expects Georgia as a whole experienced one of its warmest years on record, if not the warmest year on record. He said statewide data should be released later this week.
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