Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rain, Rain, Get Lost

Lately, it seems that just about everyone in New York City—myself included—has been complaining about the never-ending rainfall we’ve been having. But how bad is it, really? I decided to do some digging and find out. The following data comes from the National Weather Service Forecast Office, and covers from 1869 to present, with measurements taken in Central Park*. Here are the soggy facts:

The city has had 5.32 inches of rain thus far this month (we had 5.17 inches in all of May). Average June precipitation is 3.84 inches—so, with 12 more days to go this month, I’d say we’re going to beat that by a mile. (Average May precipitation is 4.69 inches, so we topped that, too.)

Q. What was the wettest May ever?
A. In 1989, 10.24 inches fell on the city during the month of May.

Q. What about the wettest June?
A. Our wettest June ever was actually quite recent, in 2003, when we received 10.27 inches. That was the wettest June in 100 years, in fact, since 1903.

Q. How about the wettest 24 hours ever in the city?
A. That would be over October 8 and 9 in, again, a well-soaked year—1903. A staggering 11.17 inches fell from the skies in that 24-hour period … that’s double what we’ve had throughout the past 17 days of June!

Q. So which way is this trending? Is the city getting wetter or drier?
A. Wetter, or at least it seems to be. Three of the top ten wettest years on record in New York City were in the last decade. Even more impressive, eight of the top ten wettest years were in the past four decades. (All ten have happened since 1903.) The most recent wettest year on record was 2007, at No. 4 on the list. That year the city got 61.70 inches of precipitation.

Q. Are we on track to beat 2007?
A. Not likely. By the end of May in 2007, we’d seen 25.91 inches of precipitation, including an epic 13.05-inch April (remember that storm?). By the end of May this year, the city had only received 15.52 inches of rain—respectable, and worth complaining about, but not looking like a record-breaker.

So that’s the verdict: Contrary to what you might believe, the rain has been much worse, and as recently as 2007. And yet....

(In the middle of writing this, I saw that the Times beat me to it. Oh well.)

* Final fun fact: From December 1868 to December 31, 1919, weather measurement for the city was conducted in Central Park, at the Arsenal Building on 5th Ave between 63rd and 64th streets. But on January 1, 1920, measurement moved to the Belvedere Castle Transverse Road, near 79th and 81st streets, where it remains today.


Lauren said...

Maybe God felt all of that concrete badly needed watering.

Anonymous said...

your wet words are well better than the times', man. nice. and funny, i was just today thinking of trying to find some historical new york city rain stats. now i don't have to due to your informative 411. thanks, g.