ATHENS - Georgia's state climatologist is predicting drought conditions in the state next summer.
David Stooksbury, a professor of engineering and atmospheric sciences at the University of Georgia, said much of metro Atlanta and south Georgia already are in drought. He said Athens and northeast Georgia are classified as abnormally dry.
A strong La Nina weather pattern is forming in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America and will affect conditions in Georgia, Stooksbury said.
There is a "high probability that the winter will be warmer than normal and drier than normal," he said. "With dry conditions already being experienced, that's not something we want to hear."
Winter typically is the season when abundant rainfall and low evaporation due to cool temperatures combine to moisten the soil and refill rivers and streams, Stooksbury said.
He said it appears that not enough rain will fall on Georgia to carry the state through the hot, dry summer months.
Georgia emerged in 2009 from a three-year drought. This year, most of the state has received only 70 percent or less of its usual rainfall, Stooksbury said.
Among the hardest-hit areas this year has been around Columbus, whic has received only about 33 inches of precipitation this year, 10 inches below normal. In 2009, the total there by late November was well over 60 inches.