Publication Date December 16, 2019 | Superior Telegram

2019 is the wettest year ever recorded for Wisconsin, Midwest

United States
Flooding Milwaukee Wisconsin. Credit: Michael Pereckas, Flickr Creative Commons.
Flooding Milwaukee Wisconsin. Credit: Michael Pereckas, Flickr Creative Commons.

Signals Summary: Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation. In the Midwest, global warming is causing an overall increase in precipitation, leading to more flooding

Article Excerpt: The year’s not over, but 2019 will already go down as the wettest year ever across the Midwest and Wisconsin since record-keeping began in 1895.

More than 43 inches of rain and snow — 43.48 inches to be exact — fell across nine states in the Midwest through November. The total bumps the previous record set back in 1993 by 2 inches, according to data from the Midwestern Regional Climate Center.


Four of the state’s top five wettest years have taken place in the last decade — three of them in the last five years. The top three wettest years ever recorded are now 2019, 2018 and 2016. Both Vavrus [senior scientist with the Nelson Institute's Center for Climatic Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison] and Timlin say the amount of precipitation is consistent with scientists’ projections on climate change.

"What we’re really seeing in the Midwest so far is a whole lot more of the bigger rains," Timlin said. "We’re seeing a lot of heavier rains."

The Fourth National Climate Assessment released last year said annual precipitation in the Midwest has increased up to 15% from the first half of the last century. Precipitation during the spring and winter is expected to increase by up to 30% by the end of this century.

"One thing that climate change is doing is it’s providing a warmer atmosphere and higher humidity. Those things tend to go hand in hand," Vavrus said. "That means when weather conditions are favorable for precipitation there’s probably more now than there used to be."

The amount of rain and snow across Wisconsin and the Midwest has created problems with flooding and delayed planting for growers this spring. A wet fall also made it difficult for farmers to harvest crops.