All This Summer Rain? Same As It Ever Was

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — It’s summer. It’s raining again. And maybe you’re thinking, or heard someone say: ‘Jeez, I can’t believe how much it’s been raining this summer.”

Well, believe it. It seems that many of us suffer from some sort of collective amnesia when it comes to the summer rains in southeast Ohio, or at least in the Athens area.

Because the fact is, depending on the year, summer is either the wettest season here or a close second to spring. It depends on whether the heaviest June rains come before or after the summer solstice.

July, which is peak summertime, is one of the rainiest months. This is based on decades of daily rainfall data collected for the National Weather Service from the Ohio University weather station.

From 1981 to 2010, July was second only to April in average rainfall. And it was a close second. June has since taken a commanding lead as the rainiest month, with April second and July a close third.

Now, if July and August have seemed unusually rainy this year, you’re not mistaken. There has been more rainfall than average. This has been by far the wettest August in at least a decade.

But there have been years within the past decade that brought as much or more summer rain.

It just seems that many of us forget.

Summer is peak vacation time. The kids are out of school. The days are long. We’re looking to spend more time outdoors. And when the rain messes with our plans, it’s frustrating even though it should be familiar.

“Yeah, it’s absolutely true,” said Ryan Fogt, a meteorology professor at Ohio University and director of the university’s Scalia Laboratory for Atmospheric Analysis.

“We have a bias to extremes. We tend to remember large big events, rather than the day-to-day rain or warm temperatures and it makes it difficult to kind of put things in perspective when we have that kind of lens to look back through time, and we often forget things even as quick as like last year, right, and how weather patterns were going and how close we were to average or above average.”

Fogt said this forgetfulness presents a more serious problem when it comes to things like climate change. We tend not to notice the gradual increases in temperature and other shifts in the weather over the years until they finally manifest into extreme wildfires and droughts and floods.

Summer rains are directly tied to higher temperatures. The heat increases the moisture capacity of the atmosphere. Hot days coupled with high humidity are the basic ingredients of summer thunderstorms that can dump a lot of rain in a short period.

Fogt said one significant climate change in the Midwest is that we’re getting heavier downpours.

“Which is not actually helpful,” he said, “because the ground reaches saturation pretty quickly and then a lot of it becomes runoff, rather than a slower, steadier rain where it can soak into the ground at deeper levels and provide more soil moisture and groundwater. These heavier rains are causing more flash flooding, more inland flooding and other problems.”

For those in the Athens area who’ve had enough of the rain, take heart — fall is just around the corner. And in case you’ve forgotten, it’s typically the driest season.