delware environmental institute

News Journal: Extreme rain events on rise

If you plotted Delaware's total snowfall over the last decade, it would show an up-and-down graph from 2004 at 12.6 inches, down to 4.8 inches in 2012, back up to this winter at more than 50 inches. Temperature data shows a similar, up-and-down trend: 33 days above 90 degrees in 2012; just 6 in 2009. Even mean temperatures vary wildly from 62.8 in 2004 to 68.2 in 2012. Rainfall goes up and down too – except for one type: extreme rainfall. Those storms – downpours that bring 2 inches or more in one 24-hour period – seem to be on the rise in Delaware.

It's not good news for people who live in the state's cities, suburbs or even in rural areas, where farmers depend on a steady supply of rain to keep crops growing – especially in July when corn is knee high and in tassel. More storms fit with climate models that point to greater extremes in weather patterns, said Gerald J. Kauffman, with the University of Delaware's Water Resources Agency. "We're seeing that happen, I believe," he said. With extreme rainfalls, "we've had a lot more of them since Hurricane Floyd in 1999."