The current drought has caused significant problems for farmers in central Georgia and other areas of the state, but a lack of impact on the state's larger cities and drinking water supplies has kept it off most Georgians' radar.

As of early December, about 14 percent of the state was experiencing exceptional drought, which is drought that is only expected to occur on the average every 50-100 years.

This region was experiencing some level of drought during the entire 2012 growing season.

Rainfall in late December provided some temporary short-term relief to dry areas in Georgia, particularly in the northern half of the state. However, this rain will provide only limited improvements in areas that have seen rainfall deficits as low as 20 inches below normal in 2012.

Drought is classified into four levels: moderate (D1), severe (D2), extreme (D3) and exceptional (D4) drought. A few areas in central Georgia have been experiencing extreme drought — the second most serious category of drought — continuously since May 2011.

While wetter weather this past summer alleviated drought in some areas of the state, drier than normal conditions have since expanded due to a deficit of tropical rainfall at the end of the summer and a persistent high pressure system that has diverted storms away from the state.

Why so dry? Normally, rainfall from tropical systems provides a significant percent of all the rain that falls on Georgia during the late summer and early fall months. However, this year Georgia was largely by-passed by tropical systems.

The coastal areas did see some rain from Tropical Storm Beryl in May, and Tropical Storm Debby dropped rain along the southern tier of counties in June.

Hurricane Isaac initially looked like it would bring substantial rain to Georgia in late August, but instead came ashore to the west in Louisiana. A small piece of Isaac passed through Georgia from north to south as the storm broke apart, but brought only a limited amount of rain to the state.

This past fall, a strong high-pressure system steered rain-bearing systems away from the state and suppressed convective rain.