The next few days mark the 4th anniversary of one of Georgia's worst heat waves this century. Remember the end of June/beginning of July in 2012? Chances are you do, since Columbus had highs of 105º, 106º, and 105º on successive days June 29 through July 1, part of a broad heat wave that affected a large part of the country. The 106º stands as the city's all-time hottest recorded temperature. Fortunately, we fell back to a high of "only" 96º by the 4th of July holiday, and the rest of the summer turned out to be much less extreme - a nice break after two very hot summers in 2010 and 2011.
Lucky for us this summer hasn't been extreme, but it has been running more than a degree above normal, and it looks like that's how we'll finish June. Rainfall has been lacking, with May a bit below average and June well below through the first 28 days. That's not a very promising start to the hot season, but we're about to get into July which can be a make-or-break month. On average it is our second wettest month of the year, and the month with the highest number of rainy days and thunderstorm days. Since it's almost always dry from mid-August through October, we need July to at least keep pace.
As it looks now, July could begin rather wet. Thunderstorm activity will be concentrated to our south the next few days, though some spotty showers could develop each afternoon further north near Columbus. By Sunday, the upper pattern will be more favorable for more widespread thunderstorms each day, concentrated as usual in the afternoons and evenings. That could have implications for the Fourth, though a total washout seems unlikely at this point.
A wet overall pattern in July tends to keep the heat waves away, but this is turning out to be a transition summer between last year's El Nino and the (apparent) oncoming flip to La Nina. These transitions have often led to hot, dry summers in the Southeast, so with a lot of summer to go we could still be headed in that direction. Drought conditions already exist in northern Georgia and Alabama and it wouldn't take much for that to expand southward if July doesn't come through.
Kurt Schmitz, Senior Meteorologist