Columbus Drowning in Rain





If it seems like the last few years have been particularly wet, you’d be right. Columbus, other Ohio cities and many areas in the Midwest have been seeing record rainfall of late. Yesterday alone, June 19th, Columbus had a daily record 2.65″ of rain, flooding many streets across Franklin County, including I-71 in at least 2 places. Is it indicative of a fluke pattern or a local result of climate change? Let’s look at the numbers and trends more closely.

First of all, let’s look at the 20 wettest years on record through June 19th.
1. 1882: 32.50″
2. 1890: 30.12″
3. 2019: 27.08″
4. 1964: 25.78″
5. 2011: 25.68″
6. 1893: 25.50″
7. 2004: 25.49″
8. 1996: 24.94″
9. 1949: 24.52″
10. 1945: 24.49″
11. 1913: 24.45″
12. 1883: 24.18″
13. 2018: 23.98″
14. 2008: 23.62″
15. 1950: 23.60″
16. 1990: 23.56″
17. 1981: 23.49″
18. 1898: 22.94″
19. 1927: 22.92″
20. 1937: 22.69″

So far, 2019 has had the 3rd highest rain total to date since 1879.

Here are the top 20 wettest full years.
1. 2018: 55.18″
2. 2011: 54.96″
3. 1990: 53.16″
4. 1882: 51.30″
5. 1890: 50.73″
6. 2004: 49.27″
7. 2003: 49.03″
8. 1883: 48.88″
9. 1881: 46.99″
10. 2017: 46.61″
11. 1973: 46.25″
12. 1948: 45.69″
13. 1972: 45.60″
14. 1996: 45.56″
15. 2008: 45.44″
16. 1995: 45.30″
17. 2015: 45.00″
18. 1950: 44.96″
19. 1880: 44.68″
20. 1949: 44.47″

4 years this decade have been among the top 20 wettest years since 1879. Only the 1880’s can match that record, though both the 2000s and 2010s have been wetter, as shown below.


The chart shows that the 2000s were the wettest decade on record, with the 2010s looking to surpass even that total with more than 6 months left to go in 2019. Furthermore, the trend line is clearly up, meaning that Columbus has been getting gradually wetter over the last 140 years, indicating that something else is going on rather than just a random wet period.
Columbus isn’t the only place in the Midwest seeing high levels of rain. There has been widespread, damaging flooding going on across many states, especially this year. Check out some of the articles on this below:
Cincinnati: https://www.journal-news.com/news/local/butler-county-struggling-with-near-record-rainfall-this-unbelievable/270FdqJqMzImu7YSBtYTHM/
Lake Michigan: https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/lake-michigan-water-levels-on-pace-to-reach-record-high-in-june-skirt-records-into-fall/ar-AAD1BWz
Iowa: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2019/06/14/iowa-climate-change-agriculture-flood-rain-farming-environment-weather-precipitation-temperature/1433128001/
Pennsylvania: https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/06/for-pa-farmers-year-of-record-rain-often-a-big-nuisance.html
West Virginia: https://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/huntington-charleston-on-pace-to-break-annual-rainfall-average/article_1fd2b7a8-db64-5074-b017-ab700ff243ec.html
Midwest Farming: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-14/it-s-not-just-corn-u-s-farmers-may-forgo-near-record-soy-acres?srnd=premium
Mississippi River: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/mississippi-floodings-impact-freight-economy-142712910.html

Ironically, few individual months in recent years have featured record precipitation. In the last 10 years, only 1 month- July 2017- appears in the top 25 wettest months. It’s just been more of a constant wet pattern, where most months now have above to well-above normal precipitation.
While climate change can’t account for individual events or specific record rainfalls, the patterns are obvious enough to show that the climate in Columbus and in many other parts of the country is changing over time. This means that we should come to expect more of this in the years to come.