WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY/NWS) — 2018 is already the wettest year in Wilmington’s history. The all-time annual record that stood for over 140 years was broken on September 16 during Hurricane Florence, almost three and a half months before the end of the year.
Every raindrop since then has continued to extend the record, which is now approaching 100 inches. A few climate statistics will show just how unimaginable this year’s rain has been.
- Wilmington’s average annual rainfall: 57.61″
- Previous record annual rainfall: 83.65″ in 1877
- This year Wilmington has recorded the most number of days ever with daily rainfall greater than 1.50, 3.00, and 4.00 inches
- Total rainfall from just the 17 wettest days this year: 58.96″ –more rain than in an entire typical year
- 96 inches is eight feet — the standard depth of the “deep end” of a backyard swimming pool
Why has this year been so wet? A large part of it was Hurricane Florence‘s record-breaking 23.02″ of rain at the Wilmington airport September 13 through 16. This is the largest rainfall total from any single weather event in Wilmington’s history, handily beating Hurricane Floyd’s 19.06″ rainfall total back in 1999. According to NOAA Precipitation Frequency Estimates, that much rain falling at Wilmington in just four days occurs, on average, once every 1,000 years.
A steady stream of non-tropical low pressure systems, cold and warm fronts, and daytime thunderstorms also brought well-above normal rainfall amounts in January, May, June, July, and November. Most of North Carolina has recorded well-above normal rainfall this year.
Local observations show the last five years (2014 through 2018) have all had above-normal rainfall in Wilmington, and are collectively the wettest five year period since records began in 1871. While it’s never possible to attribute a single storm or even a particular year’s weather events to climate change, the Fourth National Climate Assessment states “Across most of the United States, the heaviest rainfall events have become heavier and more frequent. The amount of rain falling on the heaviest rain days has also increased over the past few decades.”