Monday, January 14, 2019

Episode 455 (1-14-19): The Record Wet Year of 2018

Click to listen to episode (4:20).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 1-11-19.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of January 14, 2019.

This week, we feature a sound-and-music medley for a weather-and-water mystery.   Have a listen for about 25 seconds, and see if you know what kind of weather record was broken in 2018 in several locations in Virginia.

SOUNDS and MUSIC - ~18 sec

If you guessed precipitation or rainfall, you’re right!  You heard a Blacksburg, Va., thunderstorm, along with part of “Rain in the Valley” by The Steel Wheels, from Rockingham County, Va.   In 2018, annual local records for total precipitation—that is, rainfall plus the water equivalent of frozen precipitation—were broken in five National Weather Service observation locations in Virginia: Danville, Lynchburg, Roanoke, Reagan National Airport in Arlington County, and Dulles Airport in Loudoun County.  And Richmond’s Weather Service observation location experienced the second-highest annual precipitation on record.  Records at those locations go back to the early 1900s or late 1800s, except for the Dulles Airport location, where records go back to 1960.  Those six locations had over 60 inches of precipitation in 2018, compared to normal annual values of around 40 to 45 inches for most locations in Virginia.

At six other Weather Service observation locations covering parts of the Commonwealth, precipitation in 2018 didn’t break records but still ranged from about seven inches above normal at Wallops Island in Accomack County to nearly 20 inches above normal at the Charlottesville-Albemarle County Airport.  Beyond Virginia, across the eastern and Midwestern United States, annual precipitation records were broken in nearly 200 locations in 2018, according to Ian Livingston of The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.

Besides official National Weather Service observation locations, Virginia has over 1000 weather-observation stations participating in the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network of volunteer weather observers.  If you live in the Commonwealth, a station near you may also have seen record precipitation in rainy 2018.

Thanks to The Steel Wheels for permission to use this week’s music.  We close about a bit more music for precipitation; here’s part of “Rain Refrain,” composed and performed for Virginia Water Radio by Torrin Hallett, a 2018 graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio.

MUSIC - ~29 sec


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.   For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


“Rain in the Valley,” from the 2012 album, “Lay Down, Lay Low,” is copyright by The Steel Wheels, used with permission.  More information about The Steel Wheels is available online at  This music was also featured in Virginia Water Radio Episode 328, 8-8-16, on flash flooding.

“Rain Refrain,” composed in 2016, is copyright by Torrin Hallett, used with permission. Torrin is a 2018 graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio. Click here if you’d like to hear the full piece (43 seconds). More information about Torrin is available at his Web site,, and on Facebook at Thanks very much to Torrin for composing the piece for Virginia Water Radio. This music was also featured in Virginia Water Radio Episode 338, 10-17-16, “Rainfall Dimensions.”

Thanks to Kevin McGuire, associate director of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, for his help with this episode.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


Percent of normal precipitation for the Southeastern U.S. climate region and for the continental United States for the past year, as of January 7, 2019.  Maps taken from the High Plains Regional Climate Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, online at


Following are some details on precipitation in 2018 at 12 National Weather Service (NWS) observation locations in or adjacent to Virginia.  All values are in inches. The information in this section is from the following sources:

Climate pages of the following National Weather Service Forecast Offices:
Baltimore-Washington, online at;
Blacksburg, Va., online at;
Morristown, Tenn., online at;
Wakefield, Va., online at


Jason Samenow and Ian Livingston, Drenched city: 2018 is now Washington’s wettest year ever recorded, Washington Post, 12/15/18.

According to the NWS, as of January 2019 precipitation values from 2018 are still preliminary; that is, they haven’t undergone final quality control by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and therefore are subject to revision.  Final, certified climate data are available from the NCDC online at  Normal values currently used by the NWS are based on the period from 1981 to 2010.  The NCDC released these normal values in July 2011. For information on the normal values, see the NCDC Web page at

2018 Precipitation Compared to Normal Values

R = annual high for the given location.
*NWS reported nine days of data missing at Danville in January 2018, so Danville total is possibly greater than shown.

Location notes
1 - The Bluefield location is the Mercer County, W. Va., airport, near the Va.-W.Va. state line.
2- The Bristol location Tri-Cities Airport in Tenn., about 20 miles from Bristol, Va./Tenn.
3 - The Charlottesville location is the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport.
4 - Reagan National Airport is in Arlington County.
5 - Wallops Island is in Accomack County.
6 - Washington-Dulles Airport is in Loudoun County.

Annual Precipitation Record Values

Blacksburg – 57.63 in 1972 (records since 1952).
Bluefield – 54.58 in 2004 (records since 1909).
Bristol – 65.64 in 2003 (records since 1937).
Charlottesville – information not found.
Danville – 67.43 in 2018 (previous was 60.03 in 1996; records since 1916).
Lynchburg – 65.70 in 2018 (previous was 59.71 in 1972; records since 1893).
Norfolk – 70.72 in 1889 (records since 1871).
Richmond – 72.02 in 1889 (records since 1872).
Roanoke – 62.45 in 2018 (previous was 57.84 in 1948; records since 1912).
Wallops Island – information not found.
Washington, D.C. (now measured at Reagan National Airport in Arlington County, Va.) – 66.28 in 2018 (previous record was 61.33 in 1889; records for Washington since 1871, according to The Washington Post).
Washington-Dulles Airport – 66.75 in 2018 (previous was 65.67 in 2003) (records since 1960).


Used for Audio

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHaS), “Virginia Daily Precipitation Reports,” online at  “Stations in Virginia,” at, lists over 1103 records, as of January 14, 2019.

Ian Livingston, Dozens of sites in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest have already logged their wettest year on record, Washington Post, 11/28/18.

Kevin Myatt, Roanoke annual rainfall record is official, Roanoke Times, 12/16/18.

National Weather Service Forecast Office Web sites:
*Baltimore-Washington, online at, for Washington-Dulles Airport in Loudoun County, Washington-Reagan National Airport in Arlington County, and Charlottesville;
*Blacksburg, Va., online at, for Blacksburg, Bluefield, Danville, Lynchburg, and Roanoke;
*Morristown, Tenn., online at, for the Tri-Cities Airport, about 20 miles from Bristol, Va.-Tenn.;
*Wakefield, Va., online at, for Norfolk, Richmond, and Wallops Island in Accomack County.

National Weather Service, “Snow Water Equivalent and Depth Information,” online at

Jason Samenow and Ian Livingston, Drenched city: 2018 is now Washington’s wettest year ever recorded, Washington Post, 12/15/18.

Madeleine Simon and Alejandro Alvarez, It’s Official: 2018 is DC’s Wettest Year on Record, WTOP FM-Washington, D.C, 12/15/18.

U.S. Climate Data, “Climate Virginia,” online at

For More Information about Rainfall in Virginia and Elsewhere

High Plains Regional Climate Center at  This site provides maps of total precipitation and percent of normal precipitation for the past 7, 30, 60, or 90 days for all U.S. regions.  Virginia is in the Southeast region.

National Weather Service/Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, online at, providing maps of precipitation nationwide or by state, with capability to show county boundaries, and archives available for specific days, months, or years.

National Weather Service/Storm Prediction Center, online at, providing daily maps and text for preliminary reports of severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hail.

National Weather Service/Hydrometeorological Design Studies Center, “NOAA Atlas 14 Point Precipitation Frequency Estimates: Va.,” online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Weather/Natural Disasters” subject category.

Following are links to other episodes rainfall, flooding, or stormwater.
Episode 192, 12/16/13 – Rain, Romance, and the Rockfish River in “Blue Ridge Girl” by Chamomile and Whiskey.
Episode 272, 6/29/15 – Remembering the 1995 Day that Madison County, Virginia, was the Center of Too Much Atmospheric Attention.
Episode 328, 8/8/16 – Flash Flooding, Featuring “Rain in the Valley” by The Steel Wheels.
Episode 338, 10/17/16 – Rainfall Dimensions.
Episode 442, 10/15/18 – New River High Water History at Radford, Va.
Episode 182, 10/7/13 – Stormwater’s On Your Street.
Episode 365, 4/24/17 – Where’s Stormwater Get Started? Ask a Middle Schooler!


The episode—the audio, extra information, or sources—may help with the following Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs).

2013 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Scientific Investigation, Reasoning, and Logic Theme
3.1, 4.1, 5.1, and 6.1 – Gathering and analyzing data.

Grades K-6 Earth Patterns, Cycles, and Change Theme
3.9 – Water cycle, including sources of water, energy driving water cycle, water essential for living things, and water limitations and conservation.

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 – Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Grades K-6 Interrelationships in Earth/Space Systems Theme
2.6 – identification of common storms and other weather phenomena.
4.6 – weather conditions, phenomena, and measurements.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Grades K-6 Matter Theme
6.6 – Properties of air (including pressure, temperature, and humidity) and structure/dynamics of earth’s atmosphere, including weather topics.

Earth Science Course
ES.1 – current applications to reinforce science concepts.
ES.12 – weather and climate.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Civics and Economics Course
CE.1 – skills for historical thinking, geographical analysis, economic decision-making, and responsible citizenship.
CE.6 – government at the national level.

World Geography Course
WG.2 – how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.

Government Course
GOVT.1 – skills for historical thinking, geographical analysis, economic decision-making, and responsible citizenship.
GOVT.7 – national government organization and powers.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.
Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.