Photo | depositphotos.com
Rain. I’m talking about rain! We’ve been too dry for too long, except for that one day last week when some of us got over 6 inches. You’ve probably heard that Mobile is the wettest city in the country.
Like the award you may have gotten in high school, the “wettest city” title does not have the meaning it once had. It may have started a dozen years ago in an article published on Live Science. It’s something to brag about to your family in Phoenix, but there are also a ton of caveats to being the wettest city. Like a legal contract, there’s fine print.
“Whereas such parties precipitated upon heretofore hoist umbrella in the domicile collocated in the county wherein a federal census showeth persons en masse .… “
OK, I just made that up, but here’s how that statement needs to be phrased: Based on the average annual rainfall measured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and weather-observer reporting stations, in the 48 contiguous U.S. states, between 1981 and 2010, Mobile Regional Airport was the wettest spot within a populated city (not town) in records held by the National Climatic Data Center.
The average yearly rainfall was 66.15 inches. “Wettest city” does not hold true every year. In a couple of years, the data for a 30-year period will be recalculated for the entire U.S., so relish the title now since no other large city can cut the mustard.
Mobile Regional is not the wettest location in the 48 states, though. Algiers, a ward of New Orleans, is wetter than Mobile at 66.40 inches, but it’s a much smaller area. Brookley Field and Pensacola average just over 65 inches, while Biloxi is a little under 65 inches. Miami is around 64 inches. The Gulf Coast is wet and South Florida is wet. Mobile’s title is a matter of semantics, how you define “populated city” and how well-calibrated rain gauges are. Our rainfall is not dramatically higher than other Gulf Coast locations. Throw in a couple of hurricanes or tropical storms and any other spot can win the title, but end up a loser.
“Doesn’t it always rain in places like Seattle and Portland?” you ask. By perception, yes. Seattle’s average yearly precipitation (including melted snow) is under 38 inches, but there are 158 days per year in Seattle where rainfall can be measured, even if it’s only a tiny bit. The mountains west of Seattle get just under 62 inches of precipitation spread out over 168 days. Compare that to Mobile, which only has rain on 120 days. Coastal Washington state claims many locations that get more days of rain, but we get more rain on fewer days. Those are called downpours.
In the coastal mountains of Washington state and Oregon, where there are no communities, precipitation amounts can easily break 100 inches in a year. The National Park Service reports Mt. Olympus, west of Seattle, gets 270 inches of precipitation per year. If you head to the 50th state, Hawaii, Mt. Waialeale on Kauai gets over 400 inches of rain!
What’s in your rain gauge?
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