UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – If it seems to you like this year is wetter so far than 2003 – which for much of Pennsylvania was the wettest on record – you are perceptive.
Where you live. Depending on where you live, rainfall has exceeded 2003, according to experts in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.
“The heavy rainfall at the end of July and beginning of August actually has put most of central Pennsylvania ahead of 2003 in terms of precipitation,” said Bryan Swistock, an extension water resources specialist who keeps close tabs on precipitation.
“The Appalachian Mountain portion of the state is on track to beat last year if we continue to have wet weather.
“Much of western Pennsylvania is also ahead of 2003, but that was the only part of the state that was not particularly wet last year.”
Eastern Pennsylvania, a region that saw a lot of precipitation records broken in 2003, is generally behind the pace set in 2003, Swistock adds.
The exception is the Philadelphia area where recent thunderstorms put it about 10 inches above normal for the year – that’s ahead of the pace set in 2003.
And long-range weather predictions indicate the state could be in for more of the same.
August cool and wet. According to Swistock, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center forecast for August shows near or slightly below-normal temperature and above normal rainfall for August.
That’s not good news for Pennsylvania farmers, notes Glen Cauffman, manager of the university’s farm operations, who oversees production and preparation of silage, grain and hay crops to feed Penn State’s beef, dairy, deer, horse, sheep and swine herds on 1,500 acres of farmland in Centre County.
“The rains have caused more problems for farmers than they did last year because of their frequency,” Cauffman said.
“It has rained so often it has jeopardized wheat crops. We need three consecutive days of dry weather to dry and bale hay and we didn’t get them in the last month or so.
“By the end of July, there was quite a bit of wheat still standing, losing quality. I know here on the Penn State farms and around the central region, we are further behind schedule than we were last year.”
Autumn. Although Pennsylvania’s months don’t differ much on average precipitation, the autumn months of September, October and November usually are slightly drier than others.
But last year, September was incredibly wet in much of the state, with some counties recording rainfall amounts as much as 8 inches above normal for that month alone – approaching five times normal.
Swistock and Cauffman aren’t expecting any similar deluge this fall, but even above-average precipitation for the rest of the year will make 2004 go down as one of the wettest for parts of the state.
“We just got into an unusual weather pattern last fall when moisture-laden storms kept moving up the coast and stalling over Pennsylvania,” Swistock said.
“During summer, the jet stream usually pushes pretty far to the north. But during July and so far in August, it was running right above us, carrying storms from the west over us and stalling, bringing frequent heavy rains and cool weather.
“These two years of extremely wet weather come at the end of a nine-year drought. Whether it is caused by global warming or some cyclical pattern, I can’t say.”
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