Rain, rain go away

Another daily record for rainfall fell in Minot Tuesday evening.

The automated rain gauge at the Minot International Airport on the city’s north side recorded .83 inches of rain Tuesday. The rain gauge at the North Central Research and Extension Center just south of the city registered 1.02 inches during the same period, another indicator of a precipitation trend that continues a rise through the record books.

The previous record for rainfall on Aug. 6 as measured at the Minot airport was .68 inches in 2011. Additional National Weather Service data reveals that 2.15 inches of rain was recorded in Minot on the same date in 1916. However, the requirements of how rainfall is measured has changed significantly enough to essentially negate comparisons between new and old measurements. Therefore, according to the Bismarck NWS, the .83 inches of rainfall that dumped on Minot Tuesday evening is a new official record for the date.

Perhaps of greater interest to residents who recall the wet conditions that were prevalent in the region prior to the flood season of 2011 is the amount of rainfall recorded locally so far in 2013. By all methods of measurement, be it automated or by actual physical reading of rain gauges, this year is destined to go down as one of the wettest in history for the Minot area.

Tuesday’s rainfall, and an additional .07 inches received Wednesday night, pushed the total amount of precipitation recorded at the Minot airport this year to 18.35 inches. Normal for the same period is 11.81 inches. The 18.35 total exceeds the yearly average rainfall for Minot, based on 96 years of data, of 17.19 inches and there are several months remaining in the year.

“Let’s say it doesn’t rain a single drop the rest of the year, Minot’s precip would still be number 32 all-time,” said Todd Hamilton, Bismarck NWS meteorologist.

Minot’s 2013 precipitation as recorded at the Airport is running 55 percent above normal. Even if only normal precipitation occurs from now through the end of December, Minot would reach 23.24 inches which would be seventh highest all-time. If the trend of 55 percent above average continues through Dec. 31 the amount of precipitation would tally an astounding 26.39 inches, placing the amount number two in the record book.

“Climatologically speaking, we are entering the driest part of the year, fall and winter,” said Hamilton. “On average this is the time of year when we get our lowest precipitation amounts. Will our precip level off this fall and winter? That’s a good question.”

At the Research and Extension Center the rainfall totals this year are running considerably higher than what has been officially recorded at the airport. While the airport rain gauge is automated, the gauge at the Extension Center is read manually each day by James Tarasenko.

Tarasenko recorded 22.35 inches of precipitation through the end of July at the Extension Center. That compares to the 107-year average of 11.16 inches, meaning precipitation in 2013 has been running two times more than normal.

“It’s hard to believe what’s going on,” said Tarasenko when asked about the rising rainfall totals.

Average rainfall recorded at the Extension Center for August is 2.93 inches. With more than three weeks remaining, 1.20 inches has already been recorded for the month. While the possibility of the trend continuing cannot be ignored, past rainfall amounts cannot be considered an automatic indicator of how much rain will fall in the weeks and months ahead.

“We could see some drying out in September, October and November,” said Hamilton.

Nevertheless, the amount of rainfall received during this calendar year is a somewhat ominous indicator that deserves scrutiny prior to next spring’s runoff season. Other important variables include whether or not there is an early freeze, the amount of snowfall this winter, rainfall in the spring and temperatures during the 2014 runoff season.

While several elements factor into the annual runoff season, most of which remain unknown at this time, the amount of rain that has already fallen is a certainty and will be continue to be closely monitored for the next several months.

The 2010 rainfall total for Minot, prior to the devastating flood that followed in the spring of 2011, was 21.74 inches 12th on the all-time list. Given the current trend, that total is almost certain to be surpassed this year. However, says Hamilton, even if that should occur it should not be a cause for undue alarm.

“Even with a top five precipitation year it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a bad winter ahead or necessarily mean dire consequences for next year’s runoff season. There’s too many factors to consider,” said Hamilton.