A hot, damp summer is likely in store for Georgia. Here’s why

Streak of record-breaking heat continues on land and in the world’s oceans
Christina Mathers walks Corra (left) at the Cochran Shoals Unit-Interstate North of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Cobb County on Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Photo by John Spink/AJC)

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

Christina Mathers walks Corra (left) at the Cochran Shoals Unit-Interstate North of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Cobb County on Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Photo by John Spink/AJC)

Sticky, hot weather is a given every summer in Georgia, but as an unprecedented streak of record global heat continues to envelop the planet, there’s a good chance this upcoming summer is even more stifling than normal.

New projections released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show Georgia and most of the continental U.S. are likely to experience above average temperatures this June through August. The greatest odds for abnormal summer heat are in the Southwest and Northeast.

Georgia could also see plenty of rain this summer. NOAA’s forecast for Georgia and most of the East Coast calls for above average precipitation.

Dan Collins, a meteorologist with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said the projections reflect the influence of human-caused climate change, as well as the imminent transition from El Niño to La Niña in the Pacific Ocean.

The Pacific Ocean is currently experiencing El Niño conditions, which is characterized by exceptional heat in the ocean’s tropical waters. The phenomenon typically brings cool, wet weather to the Southern U.S., but the Pacific is set to swing rapidly from El Niño to its opposite phase, La Niña.

The cooling of the tropical Pacific that occurs during a La Niña usually brings above average temperatures to the Southern U.S.

NOAA predicts La Niña could develop between June and September.

Global temperatures on land and in the world’s oceans, meanwhile, remain off-the-charts hot.

April 2024 was the hottest April on record for the planet and Earth’s eleventh-straight month of record-breaking heat, with temperatures nearly 2.4 degrees above the 30-year average. Georgia wasn’t quite as warm as the rest of the planet, but April in the state was still 1.4 degrees above normal.

Most alarming to the NOAA climate scientists who spoke Thursday is the unprecedented heat in the world’s oceans, which is having dire impacts on fragile coral reefs.

Derek Manzello, a coordinator with NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch Program, said a mass coral bleaching event that began last year and has shown little sign of abating has affected formations along the coasts of at least 62 countries and territories so far. Bleaching occurs when corals are exposed to abnormally hot water, which stresses the animals and causes them to expel the algae that live in their tissue, which coral depend on for survival.

The bleaching has been most severe in the Atlantic Ocean. In the last year, 99.7% of Atlantic coral formations have experienced ocean temperatures capable of causing bleaching.

“We’re seeing things play out right now that are just very unexpected and extreme in nature,” Manzello said. “The global oceans are so much hotter than average right now.”

The warmth in the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea — which is in the primary zone for tropical storms to form in the Atlantic Basin — also does not bode well for the upcoming hurricane season, which officially starts June 1.

Ocean heat is the primary fuel for hurricanes. The expected transition to La Niña, which tends to tamp down on wind shear that prevent massive storms from forming, could also lend itself to creating conditions that are ideal for hurricanes.

Already, some researchers are predicting an “extremely active” hurricane season. NOAA will release its forecast for the Atlantic Basin next week.

A note of disclosure

This coverage is supported by a partnership with Green South Foundation and Journalism Funding Partners. You can learn more and support our climate reporting by donating at ajc.com/donate/climate/