Changing Weather Patterns for Georgia Groves

Josh McGillWeather

Pam Knox told Georgia growers at an August citrus meeting that their groves experience warmer temperatures on average than they would have six decades ago. “Since about 1960, annual temperature (in Georgia) has risen about 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit,” she said. Knox is the University of Georgia (UGA) Weather Network director and agricultural climatologist.

During the December 2022 freeze, Georgia growers used sprinklers to spray trees with water to form a protective ice sheet. (Photo courtesy of Lindy Savelle.)

According to Knox, the growing season increases by about one week for each degree rise in temperature. By that measure, Georgia growers have gained about 2.5 extra weeks of growing season compared to 1960.

“The coldest average years in the 1960s had many more cold outbreaks than our current climate,” Knox reported.  

Although average temperatures have risen, that doesn’t mean Georgia growers won’t have freezes. In fact, Knox noted that the state experienced “a very cold outbreak in late December 2022.” Even with that cold outbreak though, the average temperature was well above normal across the region.

Knox reported that spring 2023 bloom was as much as a month early at some locations in Georgia. That only happens every two decades or so.

Although temperatures have gotten warmer in recent decades, “annual average precipitation has not changed much in Georgia over the last 125 years,” Knox said. However, she noted that rainfall is heavier, and dry spells between rain events have increased.

Knox’s full presentation, Changing Weather Patterns and Temperature Extremes for Citrus Growers, contains much more information about Georgia weather. Topics addressed include:

  • What causes cold outbreaks?
  • How will the Polar vortex change in a warmer climate?
  • What is La Niña and El Niño?
  • Sources of weather and climate data
  • Personal weather stations

Knox referred growers to a UGA Cooperative Extension website as a good source of frost and freeze protection information for fruit. For decades, the most common method of freeze protection in Florida citrus has been microsprinkler irrigation, which is also commonly used in Georgia citrus groves.  

About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large

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