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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Update from the Terra Incognita of rain

"Terra Incognita" is my metaphorical phrase for describing the previously unknown weather (well, unknown at least in the weather records) that is now being brought to us, around the world, by global warming.  Here's a quick update from one part of that unknown land--the rainy one.

A few days ago, Joe Romm's excellent Climate Progress blog ran a post by Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground ( about the new records for rainfall that have been set in the Northeastern U.S. this year.  Dr. Masters emphasized the fact that Philadelphia, which has one of the longest weather records (and therefore extremes that are very hard to top) had set a new record with its rainiest year since the start of rainfall record-keeping in 1820.  But some other numbers in his list of new 2011 records seem to me even more striking.   Here they are:

Williamsport, PA, rainfall records dating from 1895: broke old record by 7.1 inches (180 mm) (11.5%).
Cleveland, OH, records since 1855: broke old record by 8.51 inches (216 mm) (15.8%)
Harrisburg, PA, records since 1861: broke old record by 12.29 inches (312 mm) (20.5%).
Binghamton, NY, records since 1890: broke old record by 16.61 inches (422 mm) (33.7%)

In each case, we're talking about weather records dating back more than a century, and the old rainfall records are not just being surpassed, they're being obliterated.

The bottom line?  Global warming means new weather coming, to a place near you.  It may be hotter, or dryer, or wetter than ever before, but whichever it is, we're off the old weather charts and into new territory.

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