2008 Climate Summary for North and Central Georgia
January 26, 2009

Although the drought continued for a third consecutive year, 2008 experienced several key wet months which lessened its intensity. Near normal precipitation from February through April contributed to a significant recharge for many area lakes and reservoirs, while a cooler than normal May, August, October, and November aided in the recovery.

The year began with a dry start though, as Atlanta, Athens, and Macon all posted rainfall deficits of 1 - 2+ inches in January. Columbus was the bright spot, however, receiving 5.09 inches of precipitation which was nearly a third of an inch above their average. Temperatures were mostly cooler than average with Atlanta, Columbus, and Macon recording monthly departures of -0.4 degrees or more. It was the coldest January in the capital city since 2003, and the snowiest since 2002 with 1.4 inches of snowfall. In February, warmer than average temperatures reversed this trend with Athens and Macon recording departures of +2.9 and +2.2 degrees, respectively. At the same time, the southern branch of the Pacific jet stream set up a moisture feed from the Gulf which resulted in ample February rainfall. Both Columbus and Macon recorded monthly surpluses of more than an inch with Columbus recording their 12th wettest February on record at 6.26 inches. March followed with near average rainfall in Atlanta with 5.17 inches, but Athens, Columbus, and Macon all fell short by amounts ranging from 1.51 inches in Athens to 2.49 inches in Macon. With regard to temperatures, readings returned to near seasonal averages as departures ranged from -0.6 degrees in Columbus to +0.7 degrees in Athens.

Monthly average temperatures remained very close to normal in April, as all four cities fell within 0.4 of a degree F of their expected value. However...a late season polar airmass brought record cold low temperatures to Athens, Columbus, and Macon on the last day of the month. In Athens, the morning temperature of 37 F broke the previous record set in 1922 by 3 degrees. Columbus also set a new record with 42 degrees, breaking the old record of 43 F set in 1961. Rainfall for the second consecutive month fell short of average, though, in all four cities. However, the deficits were less than a half inch in Atlanta, Athens, and Macon.

The late winter and early spring recharge to north Georgia’s lakes and reservoirs came to an abrupt end, however, in May. Athens and Macon recorded rainfall deficits of 1.63 and 1.94 inches, respectively, while Atlanta was more than an inch short of normal. Columbus again was the one bright spot, receiving 5.49 inches which was 1.87" above average. Unfortunately, 4.54" of that monthly total fell in one day, the11th, which was the wettest day ever for the month of May in Columbus. In contrast, temperatures remained on the moderate side with all four cities posting monthly averages within a half of a degree of normal. This 3 month trend of near normal temperatures quickly reversed itself in June, as daily high temperatures early in the month soared to their highest readings for the entire year. On the 8th and 9th, seven record highs were either tied or set in the 4 locations. In fact, Athens exceeded the century mark on both days with new records of 101 F and 102 F, respectively, breaking previous records of 100 F and 99 F dating back to 1933 and 1926. Similarly, Macon hit the century mark twice, breaking the old record of 98 F in 1993 on the 8th then tying the previous record of 100 F set in 1954 on the 9th. During this scorching event, Atlanta too exceeded its mark of 97 F set in 1995 on the 9th, when the mercury climbed to 98 F. In Columbus, 98 F on the 8th and 97 F on the 9th, broke the previous record of 96 F (1993) and tied the other from 1986, respectively. Unfortunately, this oppressive heat also accompanied very dry conditions for Atlanta, Athens, and Columbus. Atlanta led the rainfall deficits with -3.05 inches, while witnessing its 3rd driest June with only 0.58" recorded. 

The table below compares monthly rainfall amounts from 2008 to the 30 year averages.

    Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total Departure
Atlanta  2008  2.85 4.68 5.17 3.22 2.80 0.58 7.17 3.77 0.75 3.48 2.64 4.39 41.43 -8.77
1971-2000 30 yr
5.03 4.68 5.38 3.62 3.95 3.63 5.12 3.67 4.09 3.11 4.10 3.82 50.20
Athens  2008  2.60 3.56 3.48 3.00 2.23 1.22 3.95 2.79 2.13 5.12 2.63 3.66 36.37 -11.46
1971-2000 30 yr
4.69 4.39 4.99 3.35 3.86 3.94 4.41 3.78 3.53 3.47 3.71 3.71 47.83
Macon  2008  3.80 5.77 2.41 3.08 1.04 4.72 5.09 6.82 0.32 4.84 4.92 5.33 48.14 +3.14
1971-2000 30 yr
5.00 4.55 4.90 3.14 2.98 3.54 4.32 3.79 3.26 2.37 3.22 3.93 45.00
Columbus  2008  5.09 6.26 3.62 2.68 5.49 1.72 3.45 8.26 0.52 5.48 3.79 4.40 50.76 +2.19
1971-2000 30 yr
4.78 4.48 5.75 3.84 3.62 3.51 5.04 3.78 3.07 2.33 3.97 4.40 48.57


The dryness soon eased, however, as Atlanta posted a surplus of 2.05 inches in July while Macon was 0.76 of an inch above normal. Temperatures too contributed to the relief, as all four cities fell within a half degree of their monthly average. Summer heat continued in moderation during August as the capital city reached 90 F or more on just 8 days. By the end of the month, both Atlanta and Columbus posted monthly departures of -0.7 and -1.2 degrees, respectively. More relief from the drought arrived with record rainfall from the remnants of slow moving Tropical Storm Fay. On August 23rd, and 24th, Columbus set record rainfalls with 2.18 and 2.11 inches, respectively. Macon also received record rainfall on the 24th, when 1.58 inches fell. In fact, monthly totals where quite impressive in both cities with 8.26 inches in Columbus and 6.82 inches in Macon. This bonanza of rainfall came to an end in September, though, as all four cities recorded significant deficits. Atlanta, Columbus, and Macon all failed to receive an inch of rain for the month. Recording just 0.32", Macon experienced their 3rd driest September on record, while Columbus with 0.52" recorded their 5th driest. Concurrently, temperatures added to the problem with all 4 locations registering a monthly temperature above their average.

Remarkably, both these drought strengthening trends were dramatically reversed in October. Two record rain events, the first drenching Athens with 3.20" and Columbus with 2.75" on the 8th came within 0.07" of setting a new record in Athens for the date, while Columbus broke their record. Similarly, the 1.80" which fell in Atlanta and the 1.81" in Macon were enough to post their 3rd wettest and 2nd wettest October 8th, respectively. Then, on the 24th, the 2nd deluge of the month brought record rains to Columbus and Macon with 2.03, and 2.5l inches, respectively. Also, a couple of polar outbreaks toward the end of the month, set the stage in Athens for two mornings with a freezing temperature, on the 29th and 31st. The cool 2nd half of October lead to all 4 cities posting below average monthly temperatures, ranging from -0.8 deg F in Atlanta to -1.9 degrees in Columbus .

A continued series of polar air masses in mid to late November kept monthly temperatures again on the cool side. Departures from normal ranged from -2.9 degrees F in Atlanta to a noteworthy -3.9 F in Columbus. As these cool air masses slowed further southward, Columbus and Macon benefitted the most from their associated precipitation. Whereas, Atlanta and Athens fell short of their average monthly rainfall by 1.46 and 1.08 inches, respectively. Columbus reaped the advantage by receiving near normal monthly rainfall with 3.79 inches, while Macon recorded a substantial surplus of 1.70 inches with a total of nearly 5 inches (4.92").

The year ended on a positive note when December rainfall exceeded the expected amount in both Atlanta and Macon by 0.57 and 1.40 inches, respectively. This was mainly attributed to an intense low pressure system taping ample Gulf moisture on the 10th and 11th. This vigorous system moved slowly across Alabama and Georgia producing a widespread soaking which resulted in some localized flooding. However, the 2-day rainfall totals were generally welcome relief from past deficits. All four cites received more than 2 inches of rainfall with Columbus and Macon again leading the way with 3.80" and 5.07", respectively. It wasn’t enough to reverse all the yearly deficits, but Columbus and Macon did end the year on the plus side, recording yearly totals of 50.76" (+2.19") and 48.14" (+3.14"), respectively. 

Specific reports for select cities in 2008.

Weather Elements Atlanta Athens Macon Columbus
Hottest Day June 9...98 June 9...102 August 8, July 21, June 9, June 8...100 July 21...99
Coldest Day Jan. 3...15 Nov. 22 & Jan. 3...16 Jan. 4...18 Jan. 3...19
Wettest 24 Hour Period July 13th...2.10" October 8th...3.20" December 10th...2.55" May 11th...4.54"
Wettest Month July....7.17" October....5.12" August....6.82" August....8.26"


City Mean Temperature for 2008 Normal Mean Temperature Mean Temperature Departure from Normal Total Rainfall for 2008 Normal Total Rainfall Total Rainfall Departure from Normal
Atlanta 62.4 62.1 +0.3 41.43" 50.20" -8.77
Athens 62.4 61.5 +0.9 36.37" 47.83" -11.46
Macon 64.4 63.7 +0.7 48.14" 45.00" 3.14"
Columbus 64.8 65.1 -0.3 50.76" 48.57" +2.19"

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