Local weather in Atlanta varies during different seasons. Generally, the weather forecast for the summer is hot, muggy and wet, while the winter months demonstrate overcast skies and chilly temperatures. It’s important to understand the weather patterns before heading to Atlanta so you can be prepared for anything and everything. Atlanta’s geographical location makes it vulnerable to some extreme weather circumstances, like tornadoes, lightning and flooding.
The temperature in Atlanta varies dramatically throughout the year. It experiences mild seasons, which means mild to chilly winters and hot and humid summers. A 50-degree temperature swing between January and July is not uncommon in Atlanta. Before heading outside, continue reading about weather in The A to better prepare yourself.
Average Temperature in Atlanta
The Atlanta climate is considered mild, but the temperature swing can be pretty drastic between seasons. The summer season in Atlanta begins in May and ends in mid-October. The average temperature in Atlanta during daytime in the summer ranges between 78 and 89 degrees Fahrenheit. July is typically the warmest month of the year, averaging a daily high of 89 and a nighttime low of 72 degrees.
Snow in Atlanta is rare but possible during the winter months. From November until March, the temperature drops to daytime highs between 53 and 60 degrees and nighttime lows between 35 and 41 degrees. When a cold front moves in, the temperature can drop below freezing (32 degrees) to produce snow.
Rainfall in Atlanta
The National Weather Service records 2018 as the second-wettest year on record for Atlanta, logging 70.03 inches of precipitation throughout the year. That’s a drastic increase from the city’s yearly average of 49.71 inches. 1948 holds the top spot for yearly precipitation at 71.45 inches.
The wettest month of the year in Atlanta is March, when the city experiences an average rainfall of 4.6 inches. Atlanta weather radar typically records the least amount of precipitation in October, making it the driest month in the city on average. During the summer, the chance of thunderstorms increases dramatically. In fact, 45 percent of the month of July observes rainfall of some accumulation.
Flood Zones in Atlanta
The weather forecast for Atlanta typically includes isolated increased risks of flooding, depending on the location. In general, the city is designated as “Zone X,” or minimal risk of flood. However, certain areas close to bodies of water are designated otherwise. Consider the following flood zone designations:
- Zone AE: high-risk flood area, a base floodplain
- Zone A: area with one percent chance of annual flooding
Atlanta weather is traditionally known for hot and humid summers. In fact, the muggy period of the year lasts for about four months, from June to September. In terms of humidity, lower dew points feel drier while higher dew points feel more humid. The Atlanta climate in July averages a muggy day 85 percent of the time. Meteorologists record the “comfort level” of the humidity to be muggy, oppressive or miserable at least 21 percent of the time.
The weather forecast for any given summer day in Atlanta likely includes humidity and sunshine. The longest day of the year is June 21 (14.5 hours of daylight) while the shortest is December 21 (under 10 hours).
Cloud coverage increases in the winter. The average cloudiest day occurs in January, when the sky is overcast around 54 percent of the time. The clearest part of the year occurs between July and November. In October, the sky is clear or almost clear an average of 67 percent of the time.
Snow in Atlanta
When the temperature in Atlanta drops below freezing, the chance of snow rises. Although rare, snow in Atlanta is not unheard of. The last heavy snow event in Atlanta took place on December 8, 2017. Atlanta received between 4 and 7 inches of snow while the rest of Georgia measured up to 13 inches.
It is rare for Atlanta to experience snow so early in the season. Most of the snowfall on record has historically occurred between January and February. For example, on January 6, 2017, Atlanta experienced a mixture of snow and ice that downed trees and powerlines throughout the city.
Extreme Weather and Natural Disasters
Data for Atlanta weather year round demonstrates pockets of extreme weather and other natural phenomena. The area is prone to certain types of natural disasters, including tornadoes, hail and wind storms.
A tornado is a vortex of high-velocity, rotating violent winds that give the appearance of funnel-shaped clouds. The National Weather Service has recorded as many as 45 tornadoes in a two-day period across Atlanta, signifying the importance of tornado preparedness. Across the state of Georgia, tornadoes are the number one weather-related killer.
There have been 77 recorded tornadoes within the city limits of Atlanta between 1950 and 2013, most of which occur between March and May. In 2008, a tornado outbreak wreaked havoc on Atlanta and killed three and injured 53 people across four states. The CNN Center in Atlanta took heavy damage, including shattered windows. Other notable tornadoes and storms include:
- Hurricane Michael (2018)
- Walton County Tornado (2018)
- Hurricane Irma (2017)
When the weather forecast calls for possible tornadoes, news stations begin issuing several alerts. A tornado watch cautions residents to be on the lookout for conditions that may produce rotating clouds and strong winds. When conditions worsen, a tornado warning is issued. This alerts residents to the expectation of a tornado within the given area. To shelter from an impending tornado, consider the following:
- Go to a basement, cellar or other low-lying area protected by strong infrastructure.
- If a basement is not available, find an interior room without windows, like a closet or bathroom, and head to the center.
- Position yourself under a table, desk or other heavy piece of furniture.
- If possible, lay a blanket over your face and head to protect from flying glass and debris
Local weather in Atlanta sometimes calls for harsh rain and thunderstorms, which are often accompanied by lightning. Georgia is the eighth highest state in terms of density for lightning strikes. Consider the following lightning safety tips:
- If you can hear thunder, you can be struck by lightning.
- Head indoors or seek shelter in a vehicle.
- Stay away from tall objects like trees and fences.
- Stay away from water.
- Avoid using the phone or other electrical appliance.