It’s been a very rainy 2019
Dec 11, 2019
This year, many cities across the country experienced record breaking precipitation. With just 3 weeks until the end of the year, 2019 is on track to be the wettest year recorded in the United States.
January-to-November across the contiguous U.S. was the wettest on record, coming in a whopping 4.55 inches above the long-term average, according to NOAA. That puts 2019 on track to be the wettest year ever recorded.
Five states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota and South Dakota) had their wettest year on record. Another 16 states ranked 2019 among their top 10 yearly precipitation records. These records go back 125 years.
Out of 2750 NOAA stations across all 50 states, 98 stations (4%) have already set a record for annual precipitation (through December 8). An additional 645 stations had one of their 10 wettest years on record in 2019, meaning that 743 stations (27%) set an annual top 10 rainfall record by early December.
Among the locations analyzed, two have already set a record rainfall for the entire year: Minneapolis/St. Paul (41.4 inches) and Green Bay (46.7 inches).
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Extreme precipitation events are becoming heavier and more frequent. As global temperatures rise, more water evaporates from the land and oceans. And a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor: for every 1°F of warming, the saturation level of the atmosphere increases by about 4%.
Stronger downpours increase the risk and severity of flooding. Flooding can be especially damaging in places with aging water infrastructure (such as levies, stormwater management systems and sewage systems) and is costly in property damages and losses to industry (e.g. agriculture).
Climate Central has a number of resources and graphics about heavy rain:
Increased precipitation is changing how we measure extreme events. In 2018, NOAA updated the rainfall values that define the severity of extreme rainfall events.
According to NOAA, the 18 billion-dollar flood events experienced by the U.S this decade have resulted in losses of at least $40 billion (inflation adjusted). As of early December, three flooding events in 2019 surpassed the $1 billion loss threshold, with total costs still to be determined, and resulting in 12 deaths. Some notable flooding events this year:
Historic flooding in the spring and summer impacted many Southern Plains states
Barge traffic on the Mississippi was halted
Flooded croplands in the Midwest could be seen from space
Damages to homes, levees, and farmland mounted in the Arkansas River Basin
Flooding along the Missouri River isolated Native American communities and caused entire towns to evacuate
A Halloween storm in the Northeast caused flash floods to take out roads and bridges throughout upstate New York and Vermont
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POTENTIAL LOCAL STORY ANGLES
How much precipitation is happening near you?
You can find interactive state and county precipitation maps going back to 2001 at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, as well as a look at precipitation records, updated monthly. The USGS website WaterWatch provides tools and maps to show stream flows and flooding by region and state. And NOAA’s State Climate Summaries provide science-based information on state climate characteristics, historical and future trends, downloadable data, and easy-to-digest fact sheets.
Is flooding an issue in your state?
Heavy precipitation doesn’t always lead to flooding, but if you want information about local flooding issues, check out the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM), which has 37 state and regional chapters that promote education and policies to mitigate current and future losses from flooding. Also, FEMA collects information on flood insurance for each state and you can check out NOAA’s interactive billion-dollar weather and climate disasters website to find historic events near you. Pew Charitable Trusts has compiled research on local flood mitigation efforts around the country, and the National Conference of State Legislatures collects resources on state level actions on flood issues.
LOCAL INTERVIEW IDEAS
The SciLine service, 500 Women Scientists or the press offices of local universities may be able to connect you with local scientists or climatologists who have expertise on the impacts of climate change on weather trends in your area.
The American Association of State Climatologists is a professional scientific organization composed of all 50 state climatologists who can talk about what’s happening near you. Or check in with your local National Weather Service office.
NATIONAL INTERVIEW SUGGESTIONS
Meteorologist - Monitoring Section
NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)
Center for Weather and Climate (CWC)
NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)
Center for Weather and Climate (CWC)
*Available for interviews in Spanish and English
HOW WE GOT THE DATA
Local accumulation graphs were created using daily rainfall data from the Applied Climate Information System. For the national records map, annual precipitation data was collected from ACIS and ranked for more than 2,500 stations. 2019 data is year to date through 12/8/19. Annual (year to date through November) statewide precipitation data was obtained from NOAA/NCEI.
Nov 6, 2019
2019 marks the fifth straight year with at least ten U.S. billion-dollar weather and climate disasters—showing the increasing cost of extreme weather as the climate warms.
Oct 23, 2019
Following last year’s celebration of trees’ many benefits, this year we focus on their ability to reduce flooding from stormwater.