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Cities with the most rainfall in 2019

  • Cities with the most rainfall in 2019

    While scientists can’t definitively link single events to climate change, they have largely predicted that as the planet warms, it will also experience more extreme rainfall events. This is because the warming of the atmosphere makes it so that air can hold more moisture and evaporate water faster, which leads to heavier precipitation.

    Sure enough, 2019 has supported the hypothesis. While 2018 brought intense rains in the continental U.S., downpours hardly let up in 2019, and recent months have accounted for the lowest rates of drought in the 21st century across the country. Much of the Midwest logged two to three times the normal levels of precipitation this past year, with rivers there and in the Southeast swelling under the combination of rain and melting snow, submerging towns and farms in the process. The soil in these agriculture-heavy regions was made unsuitable for planting due to excessive flooding, which also destroyed existing crops and what had already been planted previously. The flooding also destroyed entire homes and was responsible for several deaths in areas where the rainfall was particularly extreme.

    By the end of October 2019, the continental U.S. logged its wettest year on record with an average of 30.28 inches of rain across the country. At 4.92 inches of rain above average, most of the record-setting totals have hit the Midwest. Cities in Tennessee, Illinois, Florida, and North Carolina have seen high rainfall levels this year, with 20 cities in these states among the top 50 with the most rainfall.

    In the U.S., floods have already been the most common natural disaster for some time. Now, increased rates of extreme rainfall coupled with things like urbanization—which often disrupts natural drainage systems—are contributing to even higher flood frequency in areas like the Midwest, the Gulf Coast, and the northeast coast.

    To prevent flooding, several cities have levees flanking nearby bodies of water, floodwalls, water pumps, and sandbags to distribute to residents. The issue, though, is that many of the country’s levees are over 50 years old, making them largely unreliable as far as curbing the effects of excessive rainfall. Too often, aging stormwater drainage systems also need improvements, and can’t handle heavy rain. Solutions that focus on green infrastructure, such as restored wetlands with natural stormwater-catching mechanisms, can help soak up runoff or overflowing rivers, but development along the water in many cities has paved over these natural sponges with impermeable materials that can make it hard for such solutions to be implemented. Out of the 50 wettest cities this year, nearly all of them experienced floods that put their various mitigation strategies to the ultimate test.

    To determine the U.S. cities that have received the most rainfall in 2019, Stacker consulted data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information, Climate at a Glance: City Time Series. The dataset includes precipitation data for 207 U.S. cities. Using this report, Stacker ranked the top 50 cities according to their 2019 precipitation for January through October (representing the most recent data available) and looked at how this period ranks against January–October rainfall in previous years.

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  • #50. Greensboro, North Carolina


    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 44.73 inches
    - Divergence from 30-year average (1981-2010): 8.64 inches (30-year average: 36.09 inches)
    - Rank (1928-2019): #11 wettest year
    - Wettest year since: 2018

    Ten flood-prone creeks and rivers run through Greensboro, and the city’s excess precipitation this year has brought flooding and property damage to people in the flood zones. At the end of July, two months’ worth of rain fell over Greensboro in the course of fewer than four hours, bringing the water levels of one of these creeks from two feet to 19 feet.

  • #49. Grand Rapids, Michigan

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 44.75 inches
    - Divergence from 30-year average (1981-2010): 12.51 inches (30-year average: 32.24 inches)
    - Rank (1963-2019): #2 wettest year
    - Wettest year since: 1986

    Grand Rapids received over a foot more rain in 2019 than in an average year. Fortunately, however, Grand Rapids has floodwalls in place along the river to help prevent flooding, and since 2013, the city has worked to fortify its floodwalls and update its response plan to ensure better preparedness in the event of a serious flood like the one it saw back in April 2013. Those efforts proved valuable as far as the city’s response when another disastrous flood struck in 2018, but the excessive rainfall in 2019 has luckily not resulted in a flood of that magnitude again.

  • #48. Blue Hill, Massachusetts

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 44.81 inches
    - Divergence from 30-year average (1981-2010): 1.08 inches (30-year average: 43.73 inches)
    - Rank (1895-2019): #36 wettest year
    - Wettest year since: 2018

    Massachusetts’ Blue Hill Observatory is used to rain, and 2019 hasn't deviated too much from recent annual totals. However, precipitation has been steadily increasing at a rate of about 0.6 inches per decade since the observatory began taking weather measurements in the late 19th century.

  • #47. Bangor, Maine

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 44.85 inches
    - Divergence from 30-year average (1981-2010): 10.71 inches (30-year average: 34.14 inches)
    - Rank (1953-2019): #3 wettest year
    - Wettest year since: 2005

    It has been an unusually wet year for Bangor, with several episodes of heavy rain this year, at least one of which resulted in minor flooding. According to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, if emissions continue at current levels, Bangor will probably see further increases in precipitation. By 2080, Bangor's summers could get 27.6% wetter (not to mention, about seven degrees hotter).

  • #46. Birmingham, Alabama

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 44.94 inches
    - Divergence from 30-year average (1981-2010): 0.52 inches (30-year average: 44.42 inches)
    - Rank (1930-2019): #46 wettest year
    - Wettest year since: 2017

    During one particularly intense deluge in August, more than four inches of rain fell within 45 minutes in two places in Birmingham. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has since conducted a flood risk management study of Valley Creek, a river tributary prone to flooding in the Birmingham metropolitan area, with the goal of reducing the likelihood of future floods.

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  • #45. Worcester, Massachusetts

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 45.15 inches
    - Divergence from 30-year average (1981-2010): 5.08 inches (30-year average: 40.07 inches)
    - Rank (1948-2019): #15 wettest year
    - Wettest year since: 2018

    As climate change continues, the city of Worcester predicts that it will see further increases in extreme precipitation and flooding. In the city's latest vulnerability assessment, improvements to stormwater infrastructure and higher protection of water resources are among the biggest recommendations.

  • #44. Springfield, Illinois

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 45.24 inches
    - Divergence from 30-year average (1981-2010): 13.6 inches (30-year average: 31.64 inches)
    - Rank (1901-2019): #3 wettest year
    - Wettest year since: 2008

    Several rain storms this year have caused flooding in Springfield, with some instances resulting in as much as four feet of water accumulation. To help address the threat of climate change, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law in August 2019 that would allow the state to take more action to combat climate change. Earlier in the year he had also joined other governors as part of the U.S. Climate Alliance, which unites states dedicated to furthering the goals of the Paris Agreement.

  • #43. Scranton, Pennsylvania

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 45.28 inches
    - Divergence from 30-year average (1981-2010): 12.79 inches (30-year average: 32.49 inches)
    - Rank (1949-2019): #3 wettest year
    - Wettest year since: 2018

    The heavier-than-usual rains in Scranton, which have been coming down for a few years now, haven't been great news for farmers, as the higher levels of precipitation can wash away nutrients in the soil and leave crops to rot. For other residents of the city, the rains are eroding the ground that surrounds the foundations of their homes, threatening the very ground they live on. While the Department of Public Works has some short-term fixes in the works, like diverting storm runoff near homes, predictions of continued heavy rainfall in coming years could call for more extreme measures, including resident relocation.

  • #42. Topeka, Kansas

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 45.31 inches
    - Divergence from 30-year average (1981-2010): 12.03 inches (30-year average: 33.28 inches)
    - Rank (1946-2019): #5 wettest year
    - Wettest year since: 2005

    Topeka's total 2019 rainfall had already topped its yearly average by the time August arrived, which marks a stark difference from 2018, when drought parched the entire state of Kansas. Climate change projections predict that while summers in Kansas will become hotter and drier overall, rainfall, when it occurs, will intensify, causing a higher risk of flooding.

  • #41. Charlotte, North Carolina

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 45.36 inches
    - Divergence from 30-year average (1981-2010): 10.11 inches (30-year average: 35.25 inches)
    - Rank (1939-2019): #6 wettest year
    - Wettest year since: 2018

    Charlotte had a wet start to the year, logging over eight inches of rain—and a week-long period of downpour—by February 22 alone. According to Climate Central data, Charlotte has experienced an 86% increase in heavy rainfall since 1950. As a result, the city has received funding from Michael Bloomberg's American Cities Climate Challenge to prepare for a future of heavier downpours and other consequences of climate change.

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