Georgia 2050 Forecast

This is Dr. Emily Schoerning with AR, and I’d like to say hello to all our friends in Georgia!  Let me tell you, I was excited to do this forecast.  I’ve had kind of a sneak peak into Georgia, looking into Atlanta’s projections for friends in the area, checking out that excellent, highly preserved slice of the state with the Appalachia long-range forecast.  And now we get a chance to get into the whole thing.  We’ve got a big range of change in this state, which means lots of information that’ll help you get an edge on things. 

Let’s look at how temperatures are projected to change.  This is the biggest change for the state, the heatup, both with daytime and nighttime temperatures.  First, we’ll look at historical changes.

758- daytime and nighttime historical warming trends- You can see these are trends are a little more mixed in Georgia than some states in the Southeastern region, with the exception of this part of the state, which is seeing a very consistent warming trend.  You’re going to want to keep an eye on this region, we’ll see a real consistent climactic region is forming up right around here. 

As we start seeing that, let’s look at the projected changes in those nighttime temperatures:


You can see we’re expecting more warm nights, not such a bad change for the north of the state, pronounced changes in the New Florida band.  Now this is very important when we consider Atlanta.  Plenty of other cities in this region are looking at much warmer nights, which have a pretty serious population-level impact on public health.  Those warmer nights, you get more heat stress on your people, you get more heart and lung problems.  Birmingham, Raleigh, Memphis, New Orleans, big cities in this region, all looking at very challenging increases in nighttime temperatures by 2050.  So Atlanta, not only are you looking at a not too scary level of change, your level of change relative to other cities in the southeast is excellent.

Let’s look at what this heat is looking like in terms of summer intensity and duration.  Here’s our heat map:

HEAT- substantial daytime heatup.  That whole tropic zone, Florida-like zone in the summer.

But what about the winter?  We see this Orlando-like summer, but we need to look at changes in plant hardiness zone if we want to see if Georgia is really going to acquire Florida’s citrus-growing territory.

HARDI- pretty big zone shift, big move in of zone 9.  So we do see that, we definitely have a tropical shift in the southern half of the state.  And here, I wanna show you some more info about this tropical transition, let’s look at precipitation trends.

757- strongest precipitation cline in the south, with deluges in New Florida

Okay, so this picture is coming together pretty clearly for the southern half of the state.  It’s a big change, right?  But it’s a change to conditions that we understand, to landscapes we can go see right now.  It’s not hard to envision what this part of Georgia could look like in 2050, and it’s not particularly unpleasant, either.  Check out this map, I want to show you how special this zone is.

So you can see, conditions exactly like what are forming in southern Georgia, that’s where the vast majority of the nation’s oranges are grown right now.  Great agricultural opportunities in that mild tropic environment.  But let’s talk a little about some challenges with the landscape transition. 

Now, across the Southeast, there’s landscape transformation occurring, which is hard and scary, and which has brought substantially more wildfires into the region.  That’s a threat that’s really changed in magnitude, worse in some states than in Georgia, but I want to show you this fabulous data out of Georgia about getting those fires under control:

783- controlled burns and wildfire control in Georgia

We know a lot of change is also going on near the coast, let’s look into that a little deeper.  The Atlantic rise isn’t as big as the gulf.  Charleston is getting ready for 1.5-2.5 level rise, which is in line with high projections for 50 years out- working to stay safe, right?  Using highest estimates for most crucial resources, for building resiliency for hospitals, for example. 

This is some data from Georgia on current coastal flooding trends, just so we can get a little local perspective on how things have been changing.  768- Georgia coastal flooding data

So, looking in-line with those trends, let’s go over to the NOAA sea level rise viewer.

Let’s check out the hardest part first.  If we look up by South Carolina, we can see that there are some very vulnerable communities here, up in the sea islands- vulnerable to rise.  These are communities that are gonna need help, these are the communities in Georgia who are going to be experiencing real grief, real loss, with no big upside. 

But, to the degree it is possible, and as should not surprise you, Georgians in these coastal areas are working hard to help themselves.  I would like to call out Tybee Island and Chatham County particularly as places in Georgia performing at a national level in terms of sea level awareness, roadmaps for change, and plan execution.

Sea level rise here is serious, there’s going to be serious community impact, but we see work already underway to meet the challenge.  Protecting communities, protecting historic sites, protecting the state’s heritage and beauty.  Really nice work already happening in the state to improve Georgia’s coastal resilience, there’s a lot of room for pride here.

Georgia, let’s pull this all together and talk about some opportunities.  There are big changes coming for your state, but it is awesome to look at the ways your state is already preparing for change.  I know a lot of you are very concerned, I’ve heard from many people in Georgia who are scared they’ll need to leave, that the climate change will be too intense in your area.  And it is intense, right, there is a lot of change.  But I look at the data, I think the resilience potential is very exciting, the potential for Atlanta is just fabulous.  One of the largest cities in the Southeast that won’t have a huge nighttime warmup.  Very nice in terms of manageable changes in power demand, right?  Atlantans need to work on improving your tree cover pretty hard, reduce that urban heat island effect, but you can do that.  These are challenges you can do. 

This whole new belt in the southern half of the state, you’ve got very interesting opportunities for new commercial trees.  Moving into citrus territory, particularly cold-hardy citrus like pomelos, meyer lemon, clementine.  Peach belt is kinda in the middle of the state, right below Macon.  So could shift those guys up a little, get them out of this increasingly tropical area, look at cultivating some new types of fruit crops below in the zone 9 area.  Zone 9 with plenty of water?  That’s going to be very precious by 2050, that area in the central valley of California is crucial for fruit and nut production today, and the outlook there is very poor.  That zone 9 area in Florida is going to be changing, too.  Florida’s citrus groves are going to be getting so warm we could be looking at establishing domestic mango down there, and when we look at the international picture- which, we are very fortunate, those of us who are here in North America.  Domestic mango could be a big 2050 opportunity for your neighboring state. 

Georgia, it’s good you all are extremely strong in welcoming.  Particularly inland, particularly in the northern inland region, I strongly suspect you will see growth rather than loss in the years to come. Yall get ready, I’m hopeful for you.  And if you are interested in getting involved with resilience work locally, check out this fabulous state level website and initiative:

This is Dr. Schoerning with AR, signing out.  Please like and subscribe, help get the message out there.  There is hope.  We can prepare for what’s coming.  Let’s get ready.