Late June and early July brought a few scattered showers to the parched lower Southeast, but the long-term prognosis isn’t good for farmers in the region, says David Stooksbury, state climatologist for the University of Georgia.

The climate outlook for July, August and September, shows some hope that we might be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but this is based on the possibility of tropical weather systems and probably won’t occur until after mid-August, said Stooksbury, speaking at the Drought Management for Forage/Livestock Producers Workshop held in late June in Tifton, Ga.

“In the short-term, we’ll have minimal relief from scattered afternoon thunderstorms. But even if we have normal weather over the next few weeks, that will not recharge the system due evaporation. Our soils will continue to dry and streams and groundwater levels will continue to drop. Right now, I’m leaning towards it being warmer than normal and drier than normal in the coming weeks. We need an active tropical system that will impact the United States,” he says.

Drought conditions continue to intensify across most of Georgia, says Stooksbury. Since the end of May, conditions in the southern two-thirds of the state have deteriorated from extreme to exceptional drought, the highest drought category. Portions of northwest Georgia have now entered moderate drought conditions.

All counties in Georgia south of Harris, Talbot, Upson, Pike, Lamar, Monroe, Jasper, Putnam, Hancock, Warren, McDuffie and Lincoln counties, inclusive, are either in extreme or exceptional drought.

Soil moisture levels in the extreme and exceptional drought counties are between the first and fifth percentiles, says Stooksbury. At the first percentile, the soils in late June would have more moisture 99 out of 100 years. At the fifth percentile, the soils would have more moisture 95 out of 100 years.

Streams flows across the southern half of the state also are extremely low. Daily record-low flows are occurring along Pachitla Creek near Edison, the Flint River at Newton, Spring Creek near Iron City, the Alapaha River near Alapha and at Statenville, the Satilla River near Waycross, the Ocmulgee River at Lumber City and at Doctortown, Black Creek near Blitchton, and the Ogeechee River near Eden.

Groundwater levels in the Coastal Plain are at or near record-low levels for all long-term monitoring wells. Some communities in the region are drilling deeper wells to maintain water supplies.

Stooksbury says the drought conditions being seen in Georgia now have been in the making for several months.

“Last summer, late in the summer and into the fall, we just didn’t receive the rainfall we needed,” he says. “Much of the rainfall during this time of the year comes from tropical weather systems. While the tropics were very active last summer, none of the storms affected Georgia.”

The state went from abnormally dry to extremely dry from July to August of last year. By late September of 2011, moderate drought conditions were being seen across the southern quarter of the state while remainder of the state was abnormally dry, he says.

“In late October, the rains still were not coming from the tropics, and the Southeast really started to be impacted. By November, most of the state of Georgia was in moderate drought and the southern portion of the state was in a severe drought.”