Precipitation has been a favored topic of conversation since the beginning of 2018 as the frequent rainfall gave even perfect strangers a topic of discussion in what is set to become the wettest year on record.
“It was a unique year,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Colbert.
Data collected by the Huntingdon County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) indicate that as of Nov. 30, the county received an average of 51.88 inches in contrast to the typical average of 37 inches by that same point in time.
“State College has definitely broken the all time record for the most annual precipitation and the record was broken as of Dec. 1 with almost a whole month to spare. The latest number here is up to 59.87 since Jan. 1,” Colbert said. “The records for State College go back to 1893.”
Records tracking rainfall in the region go back to 1893. For State College, the previous record was set in 1996 with 59.3 inches.
Within Huntingdon County, precipitation was slightly below average in January, February and March and very slightly above average in April. May brought approximately 5.61 inches to the county, over the typical 4.02 inches, followed by 4.96 inches over the average 3.94 inches in June.
“Heavy rains started in July. As of June 1, year to date, we were only about 3 inches above average. We had a storm around June 10 or 11 which brought 1-2 inches of rain in State College and that was the start of it,” he said. “Things really got going in mid- to late-July. By the end of July, we had even more rain and up until that time there were no named tropical storms.”
The jet stream positioned in such a way to bring ample moisture from the tropics, combined with cold fronts and warm fronts stalling out over Pennsylvania, continued to drench the region through July, when the county received 8.33 inches over the normal 3.58 inches, and August with 4.91 inches over the typical 3.46 inches. During these months, the county
“In September, we also had the impact of the remnants of Tropical Storm Florence and Tropical Storm Gordon,” said Colbert. “They brought even more moisture and focused some higher amounts of rain over Central Pennsylvania. Those were the main drivers.”
County residents were bailing out once more in September with 8.75 inches, far surpassing the average 3.58 inches. October actually fell below the norm, with 3.07 inches versus the normal 3.27 inches.
Umbrellas came out again in November, with 6.07 inches, an increase over the average 3.39 inches.
“Even November was a pretty wet month, even with no named tropical storms,” he said. “Add that all together and you have the wettest year on record.”
Whether this year represents an anomaly or a trend has yet to be determined, but what is known for sure is that weather patterns are changing.
“It’s difficult to say as far as the distant future goes. The Earth is warming and becoming capable of holding more moisture,” Colbert said. “Where that moisture gets focused can cause more rainfall. It’s something to keep in mind, but hard to tell if this is the new normal.”