Sunday, July 5, 2015

History Repeats Itself In Two Vermont El Nino Summers

A drowned, failed cornfield near Fairfield, Vermont
after a near record wet June. 
In the summer of 1998, one of the biggest El Nino patterns was in full force, warming up the eastern Pacific ocean waters to incredible heights and causing havoc with weather around the world.

In the summer of 2015, another big El Nino seems to be ramping up, and the weather, already off the rails over the past year, seems to be getting wilder.

I discovered some pretty amazing local coincidences and similarities in the weather in 1998 and this year in Burlington, Vermont, the closest major weather station to my home in northwestern Vermont.

I don't know if El Nino has a lot to do with this or not, but the summers of 1998 and 2015 are almost identical. At least so far.

May, 1998 went down as the fourth hottest May on record. That was until this year, when it moved down to fifth place. That's because May, 2015 was THE hottest May on record in Burlington. So two very warm, dry Mays in El Nino years.

June, 1998 was the third wettest on record, with 8.66 inches of rain for the month. Until this year. June 2015 is now the third wettest on record, just besting 1998 by 0.01 inch. We had 8.67 inches of rain.

On July 1, 1998, Burlington was deluged by 2.54 inches of rain in just a few hours, causing some local flooding. On July 1, 2015, Burlington was deluged by over two inches of rain in just a few hours, causing some local street flooding.  (Note, two inches of rain in one day in Burlington is quite unusual. Happens only perhaps once every other year, on average)

July 4, 1998 started overcast and hazy, and ended with rain. July 4, 2015 started overcast and hazy, and ended with rain and thunderstorms.

We'd better hope the similarities break. July, 1998 went on to become the wettest on record, with 9.31 inches. August 1998 is among the top ten wettest. There are several chances of rain in Vermont coming up over the next week to 10 days.

There are important differences between the two years. There was widespread, damaging floods in Vermont in June, 1998. There were some damaging flash floods in parts of Vermont in 2015, but the trouble wasn't as widespread as in 1998.

Still, we're all swatting mosquitoes that have flourished in this wet regime. In both 1998 and 2015, some crops, like corn are drowning and dying in the mud.

The similarities between 1998 and 2015 will certainly fade in the coming months. But, as I noted, let's hope we don't break a July record for precipitation. We've had enough.

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