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States with the most rainfall in 2019

  • States with the most rainfall in 2019

    The year 2019 has been the wettest year to date for the United States, with the country logging an average of 32.14 inches of precipitation at the end of November—4.55 inches above its normal average. Not only did more rain than usual fall, but it was more intense, giving Americans a taste of the extreme rainfall events that are becoming increasingly frequent as the planet warms.

    Multiple atmospheric forces aligned to create a stormy year, including a recent El Niño. During El Niño episodes, the surface of the central and east-central Pacific Ocean warms, bringing wetter-than-normal weather to the Western, Northern, and Southeastern United States, while keeping the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley drier.

    Atmospheric rivers brought further moisture to the western part of the country, too. These “rivers in the sky” carry water vapor from the tropics to the West Coast, making landfall as rain or snow. More than 20 of these atmospheric rivers hit California early this year, bringing enough precipitation to end the state’s drought.

    The jet stream, which transports weather systems, and climate change effects also may have helped bring—and keep—rainy weather. Temperature differences between the Arctic and the equator keep the jet stream moving quickly, but the Arctic is warming faster than more southern regions, so the jet stream has a smaller temperature differential to work with. The slower jet stream keeps moisture-filled air over the same places longer.

    Globally, a trend of warming temperatures hasn’t discouraged the wet weather. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor and dumps more rain. Climate change probably influenced this rainy year as the Earth’s temperature has crept upward. The United States likely will see more intense rainfall as its climate gets warmer. This year alone, five states set a record for the most rainfall to date, and 2019 ranked among the top 10 wettest for 17 other states.

    To determine which states saw the most rainfall in 2019, Stacker consulted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) Climate at a Glance: Statewide Time Series, updated as of November 2019. In all, 49 states are ranked by their total precipitation in 2019 from January to October, with the wettest January to October on record also listed. Data was not available for Hawaii. Read on to see how the states handled the year’s rainfall extremes.

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  • #49. Arizona

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 10.06 inches
    - Divergence from 100-year average (1901-2000): -0.53 inches (30-year average: 10.59 inches)
    - Rank (1895-2019): #68 wettest year
    - City with the most rainfall: Flagstaff (2019 precipitation: 17.3 inches, #33 wettest year)

    Climate change threatens Arizona with more frequent and more intense droughts. The past 20 years have brought below-average precipitation to the state, and the NCEI predicts that spring precipitation will decrease, threatening Arizona's summer water supply. Since 2006, the state has implemented a drought preparedness plan that monitors conditions statewide and develops ways to limit drought vulnerability.

  • #48. New Mexico

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 10.86 inches

    - Divergence from 100-year average (1901-2000): -1.73 inches (30-year average: 12.59 inches)
    - Rank (1895-2019): #96 wettest year
    - City with the most rainfall: Roswell (2019 precipitation: 9.85 inches, #76 wettest year)

    Precipitation proves variable in New Mexico, with fluctuations between dry and wet years and no clear trends in extreme precipitation events from year to year. As with Arizona, the NCEI predicts that spring precipitation likely will decrease as the climate changes, making for drier dry seasons, and droughts likely will become more prevalent.

  • #47. Nevada

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 11.41 inches
    - Divergence from 100-year average (1901-2000): 3 inches (30-year average: 8.41 inches)
    - Rank (1895-2019): #9 wettest year
    - City with the most rainfall: Ely (2019 precipitation: 12.9 inches, #6 wettest year)

    Nevada is the driest of the 50 states but has had one of its wettest years, with 11.41 inches of rain. That wasn't enough to ease a drought that has affected the southern part of the state, in the Colorado River basin, for the past 19 years. In May 2019, Nevada and six other Southwest states signed a drought contingency plan in case water levels in Lake Mead, the reservoir in Nevada and Arizona, drops to 1,075 feet above sea level.

  • #46. Utah

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 13.7 inches
    - Divergence from 100-year average (1901-2000): 2.32 inches (30-year average: 11.38 inches)
    - Rank (1895-2019): #21 wettest year
    - City with the most rainfall: Salt Lake City (2019 precipitation: 17.32 inches, #9 wettest year)

    In the first half of the year, arid regions of Utah received some of the most rainfall of any spring, and Salt Lake City had three consecutive months with three or more inches of rain, the first time this has happened since record-keeping started in 1874. Climatologists predict that extreme precipitation events will become more common in Utah as global temperatures rise, with snow making way for more rain. This could mean water shortages for the already water-scarce state, as it depends on snowpack for water storage.

  • #45. Wyoming

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 16.5 inches
    - Divergence from 100-year average (1901-2000): 2.61 inches (30-year average: 13.89 inches)
    - Rank (1895-2019): #17 wettest year
    - City with the most rainfall: Sheridan (2019 precipitation: 16.47 inches, #12 wettest year)

    NCEI predicts that, like Utah, Wyoming will also see a shift from snow to rain over time; coupled with predictions of heavier spring and winter precipitation, Wyoming also may see more flooding. Other states depend on Wyoming for water, as rivers flow from Wyoming into four major river basins, and changes in Wyoming's precipitation will mean downstream effects for other regions.

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  • #44. Colorado

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 16.51 inches
    - Divergence from 100-year average (1901-2000): 0.54 inches (30-year average: 15.97 inches)
    - Rank (1895-2019): #49 wettest year
    - City with the most rainfall: Pueblo (2019 precipitation: 12.31 inches, #23 wettest year)

    Colorado's rainfall total for the year so far isn't too far above normal, but it hasn't been enough to alleviate drought. The state experienced little drought this summer, which is rare, but by Oct. 5, 27.5% of Colorado was in a drought, and 70% was just a notch above drought conditions. Colorado residents have noticed more frequent droughts, possibly a climate change impact, and the state has issued a water plan to proactively respond to future climate changes.

  • #43. Montana

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 19.65 inches
    - Divergence from 100-year average (1901-2000): 3.58 inches (30-year average: 16.07 inches)
    - Rank (1895-2019): #8 wettest year
    - City with the most rainfall: Billings (2019 precipitation: 18.04 inches, #5 wettest year)

    Although this was a rainier year for Montana, Climate Central, an organization of journalists and scientists researching and reporting on climate change, predicts Montana is at high risk for drought but isn't preparing much. On the state website, the most recent Drought Response Plan was published in 1995.

  • #42. Idaho

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 20.28 inches
    - Divergence from 100-year average (1901-2000): 1.99 inches (30-year average: 18.29 inches)
    - Rank (1895-2019): #31 wettest year
    - City with the most rainfall: Boise (2019 precipitation: 13.37 inches, #2 wettest year)

    Boise and central Idaho experienced so much rain this spring that farmers didn't need to irrigate for weeks. Outside of this anomaly, the state is trending toward less annual precipitation, according to data from 1950 to 2018, though winter and spring may bring more rains than residents are accustomed to for those seasons. During periods of heavy rain, Idaho prevents flooding by cleaning debris from rivers, adjusting the flow of rivers through dams, and running canals at low levels.

  • #41. North Dakota

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 22.58 inches
    - Divergence from 100-year average (1901-2000): 6.35 inches (30-year average: 16.23 inches)
    - Rank (1895-2019): #2 wettest year
    - City with the most rainfall: Fargo (2019 precipitation: 28.52 inches, #4 wettest year)

    North Dakota was split between two extremes this spring: the northern half of the state experienced dry conditions, even drought, while the southern half saw plentiful rain, with Fargo recording its fourth-wettest year. Some farmers had to delay planting because of the rain. Then in September, heavy rains hit much of the state, forcing farmers to delay harvests. Waterway managers adjusted water releases from dams to prevent major floods, and some farmers needed to use grain dryers for their crops.

  • #40. California

    - 2019 precipitation (Jan. to Oct.): 22.65 inches
    - Divergence from 100-year average (1901-2000): 6.41 inches (30-year average: 16.24 inches)
    - Rank (1895-2019): #16 wettest year
    - City with the most rainfall: Eureka (2019 precipitation: 34.65 inches, #11 wettest year)

    California had a rainier wet season than usual. In March, the entire state was drought free, which hadn't happened since 2011. Climatologists predict that in the coming decades, both droughts and extreme rainfall will become more common, creating about eight " precipitation whiplash" events per century, according to the University of California, Los Angeles, researchers, compared to four per century without the influence of climate change. State lawmakers have passed legislation aimed at reducing emissions to mitigate climate change effects, and Climate Central gives the state an A for drought preparedness and an A- for inland flooding preparedness.

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