AMHERST – The year 2018 brought more than 63 inches of rain to Amherst, making it the second wettest year on record in 183 years, according to Michael Rawlins, associate director of the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Climate System Research Center. The only other year that tops 2018 is 1888, when more than 64 inches fell in Amherst.
The totals in Amherst are collected by a volunteer who reports them to the National Weather Service, Rawlins said, and the nearly two centuries of record keeping dates back to Ebenezer Snell, an Amherst College professor who started collecting the measurements in the 1830s.
Some Hampshire County farmers struggled with the heavy rain last year. Michael Docter and Bernie Smiarowski, farmers with decades of experience, both said in December that their yields decreased significantly in 2018.
“I’ve never had a year like this, never,” Docter told the Gazette. Conditions prompted Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) to open its Emergency Farm Fund, which gives quick response with no-interest loans to farmers.
Across the Northeast, 2018 was a damp and wet year. All 35 major climate sites measured by Cornell University’s Northeast Regional Climate Center saw wetter-than-normal years, while eight of those sites broke the record as the most wet, according to the center’s website. Cities like Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore had their highest levels of precipitation last year.
Records for heavy precipitation were also broken – Hartford had 22 days where an inch or more of rain fell, which constitutes a heavy rainfall, Rawlins said.
Despite a drought in 2016, Rawlins said the record-breaking year is part of a bigger picture.
“This anomalously high precipitation in 2018 is part of a longer term trend,” he said. “It’s getting wetter across the Northeast U.S.”
For example, the top 1 percent of rainfalls in the Northeast have gotten 55 percent wetter from 1958 to 2016, according to Rawlins, and three of the four most rainy years have occurred in Amherst since 2008. The average annual precipitation in Amherst has increased from 42 inches in 1895 to 48 inches, Rawlins said.
These trends fit with what climate scientists are predicting in a warming world. The Fourth National Climate Assessment, a report written by U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and released in November, predicts an increase in precipitation and a rise in intensity of rainfall by 2100.
Greta Jochem can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org