Umbrellas and snow shovels would have been wise investments over the past three months.
The winter of 2018-19 was the wettest winter ever recorded in the United States, according to a report federal scientists released Wednesday. (Climate scientists define winter as the months of December, January and February.)
In all, 43 of the “Lower 48” states had above-average levels of rain and snow from December to February, the report said. Tennessee was record wet while Wisconsin had its second-wettest winter.
In Tennessee, the colossal rains caused deadly flooding across the state in February. The floods killed four people, washed out homes, buried two stretches of interstate highway under tons of mud and rock, and led to a statewide declaration of emergency.
“There were no areas of Knoxville that weren’t affected,” Knox County Commissioner Larsen Jay said.
According to the National Weather Service, the incessant precipitation was due to a steady onslaught of coast-to-coast storms, many of which dumped heavy snow across the western mountains and portions of the northern U.S., and heavy rain across the southern tier.
The national average precipitation, which includes both rain and melted snow, was 9.01 inches.
The endless snow was a boon for ski resorts in the Sierra Nevada. The 42 feet of snow that’s fallen so far at the Sugar Bowl ski resort in northern California made for “the type of season that dreams are made of,” the ski resort said.
In all, 19 states from the Great Plains to the East Coast and south to the Gulf of Mexico ranked in the top 10 wettest on record for winter. Not a single state ranked below-average for winter rain and snow.
The plethora of precipitation practically knocked the drought off the map: At February’s end, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed 11.9 percent of the contiguous U.S. to be in drought, down from 16.5 percent at the end of January.
The soggy winter could be a sign of things to come as human-caused climate change continues. “Since 1900, average annual precipitation over the U.S. has increased by roughly 5 percent,” according to the National Climate Assessment, a federal report released in 2018.
Looking ahead to future climates, the northern U.S. should see more precipitation in the winter, the assessment said. This could be in the form of rain or snow. In addition, there “has been an increase in the amount of precipitation falling in heavy events, and this is projected to continue,” the assessment reported.
And as for winter temperatures, despite a couple of invasions from the Polar Vortex, the U.S. average winter temperature was above average nationwide for the winter of 2018-19. In fact, it ranked among the warmest third of winters on record, with warmer-than-average temperatures across the Deep South, the Southeast and parts of New England.
U.S. weather records go back to 1895.
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