The defining weather story of 2019 in the contiguous United States was rain. The year was the second-wettest ever recorded in the lower 48 states. Only 1973 was wetter.
The annual precipitation total, according to a report by NOAA’s National Centers of Environmental Information, was 34.78 inches. That is 4.84 inches above the long-term average.
While above-normal precipitation was observed across much of the nation, some places were particularly wet. North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan each posted their wettest year on record. Another 18 states finished in the top ten.
Months-long flooding in the upper Midwest and Mississippi River basin caused a tremendous amount of damage to farms and homes across the region. In fact, the combined cost of the Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi River floods was $20 billion. That adds up to about half the total cost of the 14 different billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that occurred in the US during 2019.
Heavy rain events and flooding are nothing new, but experts say climate change is making them worse. As greenhouse gases warm the atmosphere, the air is able to hold more water vapor. With evaporation from oceans, rivers, and lakes increasing, there is more water vapor available to condense and fall as rain.
Weather records for the contiguous United States date back to 1895.