Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Episode 559 (1-11-21): An Abundance of Precipitation in 2020

 Click to listen to episode (4:11)

Sections below are the following:

Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Extra Information
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.)

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 1-8-21.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of January 11, 2021.

SOUND - ~6 sec

This week, rain and thunder open an episode about the recurrence in 2020 of a record-breaking rainy year in parts of Virginia.  We set the stage with some music using rain imagery and metaphors.  Have a listen for about 30 seconds.

MUSIC  - ~30 sec – Lyrics: “Buy for me the rain, my darlin’, buy for me the rain.  Buy for me the crystal pools that fall upon the plain.  And I’ll buy for you a rainbow and a million pots of gold.  Buy it for me now, babe, before I am too old.”

You’ve been listening to part of “Buy For Me The Rain,” performed by the Andrew and Noah VanNorstrand Band.  For much of 2020 throughout Virginia, there was no need to “buy any rain, because it fell in amounts well above normal.  2020 was the second year in the past three that annual total precipitation—that is, rainfall plus the water equivalent of frozen precipitation—far exceeded normal values across Virginia.  The current normal values are based on observations from 1981 to 2010.

This past year was a rapid follow-up to the extraordinarily wet year of 2018, when five National Weather Service observation locations in Virginia set all-time annual precipitation records.  2020 didn’t quite equal that soaker year, but still in the past 12 months, two Weather Service locations—Lynchburg and Roanoke—set records, as they both also did in 2018.  At 12 Weather Service locations across the Commonwealth, 2020 amounts were at least about 8 inches above the normal values, which range across the state from around 40 inches in southwest Virginia to over 46 inches in Norfolk.  The Lynchburg site in 2020 was more than 28 inches above its normal, and the Roanoke site was more than 21 inches above.

When it comes to what Virginia gained this past year in rainfall, and the resulting additions to surface water and groundwater supplies, the Commonwealth definitely got its money’s worth.

Thanks to Andrew VanNorstrand for permission to use part of his band’s version of “Buy For Me The Rain.”  We close with some more music, with a title that’s just right for Virginia’s rapid repeat of a rainy year.  Here’s about 15 seconds of “Rain Refrain,” by Torrin Hallett, a graduate student at Lamont School of Music in Denver.

MUSIC  - ~17 sec – instrumental


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 virginiawaterradio.org, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


The rain and thunder sounds were recorded by Virginia Water Radio in Blacksburg, Va., on September 28, 2016.

The version of “Buy For Me The Rain” from the 2012 album “Andrew and Noah Band” on Great Bear Records is copyright by Andrew and Noah VanNorstrand, used with permission of Andrew VanNorstrand.  The song was written by Steve Noonan and Greg Copeland (Warner-Tamerlane, BMI); more information about releases of this song is available online at https://secondhandsongs.com/work/119556/all.  More information about Andrew and Noah VanNorstrand is available online at https://andrewandnoah.bandcamp.com/.  This music was used previously by Virginia Water Radio in Episode 532, 7-6-20.

“Rain Refrain” is copyright 2016 by Torrin Hallett, used with permission.  Click here if you’d like to hear the full piece (43 seconds).  Torrin is a 2018 graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio, and a 2020 graduate in Horn Performance from Manhattan School of Music in New York.  As of 2020-21, he is a performance certificate candidate at the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver.  More information about Torrin is available online at https://www.facebook.com/torrin.hallett.  Thanks to Torrin for composing the piece especially for Virginia Water Radio.  This music was used previously by Virginia Water Radio most recently in Episode 480, 7-8-19, on water cycle diagrams.  Following are other music pieces composed by Torrin for Virginia Water Radio, with episodes featuring the music.
“A Little Fright Music” – used in Episode 548, 10-26-20, on water-related passages in fiction and non-fiction, for Halloween.
“Beetle Ballet” – used in Episode 525, 5-18-20, on aquatic beetles.
“Chesapeake Bay Ballad” – used in Episode 537, 8-10-20, on conditions in the Chesapeake Bay.
“Corona Cue” – used in Episode 517, 3-23-20, on the coronavirus pandemic.
“Geese Piece” – used most recently in Episode 440, 10-1-18, on E-bird.
“Ice Dance” – used in Episode 556, 12-21-20, on how organisms survive freezing temperatures.
“Lizard Lied” – used in Episode 514, 3-2-20, on lizards.
“New Year’s Water” – used in Episode 349, 1-2-17, on the New Year.
“Spider Strike” – used in Episode 523, 5-4-20, on fishing spiders.
“Tropical Tantrum” – used most recently in Episode 489, 9-9-19, on storm surge and Hurricane Dorian.
“Tundra Swan Song – used in Episode 554, 12-7-20, on Tundra Swans.
“Turkey Tune” – used in Episode 343, 11-21-16, on the Wild Turkey.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at http://www.bencosgrove.com.


Shown below are the preliminary maps of Virginia precipitation approximately for 2020 (actually January 5, 2020, through January 4, 2021) from the High Plains Regional Climate Center, online at https://hprcc.unl.edu/maps.php?map=ACISClimateMaps.  The maps show total precipitation (in inches), departure from normal precipitation (also in inches), and percent of normal precipitation for the 12-month period ending January 4, 2021.


The table below has details on precipitation in 2020 at 10 National Weather Service (NWS) observation locations in or adjacent to Virginia.  The information in the table is from the following sources:

“Observed Weather/Annual Climate Report” from the Blacksburg, Va., National Weather Service Forecast Offices, online at https://w2.weather.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=rnk, for Blacksburg, Bluefield, Danville, Lynchburg, and Roanoke;

“Observed Weather/Annual Climate Report” from the Morristown, Tenn., National Weather Service Forecast Office, online at https://w2.weather.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=mrx, for Bristol;

“Local Data/Records/Top 10 List Precipitation” from the Wakefield, Va., National Weather Service Forecast Office, online at https://w2.weather.gov/climate/local_data.php?wfo=akq, for Norfolk and Richmond;

“Local Data/Records/Washington Monthly Precipitation (since 1871)” and “Dulles Monthly Precipitation (since 1960)” online at https://w2.weather.gov/climate/local_data.php?wfo=lwx, for Reagan National Airport and Washington Dulles Airport.

[Information not found for Charlottesville and Wallops Island.]

According to the NWS, as of January 2021 precipitation values from 2020 are still preliminary; that is, they haven’t undergone final quality control by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC, now called the National Centers for Environmental Information) and therefore are subject to revision.  Final, certified climate data are available from online at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov.  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 “Climate Normals” Web page at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/land-based-station-data/land-based-datasets/climate-normals.

2020 Precipitation Compared to Normal Values at 12 Virginia Locations

R = record annual high for the given location.

Location notes
1 - The Bluefield location is the Mercer County, W. Va., airport, near the Va.-W.Va. state line.

2 - The Bristol location is the Tri-Cities Airport in Tennessee, about 20 miles from Bristol, Va./Tenn.

3 - The current Washington, D.C., location is Reagan National Airport is in Arlington County, Va.

4 - Wallops Island is in Accomack County, Va.

5 - Washington-Dulles Airport is in Loudoun County, Va.


Used for Audio

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

National Weather Service, “Snow Water Equivalent and Depth Information,” online at https://www.weather.gov/marfc/Snow.

National Weather Service Forecast Office Web sites:
*Baltimore-Washington, online at https://w2.weather.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=lwx), for Charlottesville, Washington-Dulles Airport in Loudoun County, and Washington-Reagan National Airport in Arlington County;
*Blacksburg, Va., online at https://w2.weather.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=rnk, for Blacksburg, Bluefield, Danville, Lynchburg, and Roanoke;
*Morristown, Tenn., online at https://w2.weather.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=mrx, for the Tri-Cities Airport, about 20 miles from Bristol, Va.-Tenn.;
*Wakefield, Va., online at https://w2.weather.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=akq, for Norfolk, Richmond, and Wallops Island (Accomack County).

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

U.S. Drought Monitor, “Tabular Data Archive/Virginia,” online at https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Data/DataTables.aspx?state,VA.

U.S. Geological Survey, “Virginia Active Water Level Network,” online at https://groundwaterwatch.usgs.gov/statemap.asp?sc=51&sa=VA.

U.S. Geological Survey, “Water Watch/Virginia/Streamflow Time Series Plot,” online at https://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?id=real&sid=w__plot&r=va.

For More Information about Precipitation in Virginia and Elsewhere

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHaS), “Virginia Daily Precipitation Reports,” online at http://www.cocorahs.org/state.aspx?state=va. 

High Plains Regional Climate Center, online at https://hprcc.unl.edu/maps.php?map=ACISClimateMaps).  This site provides maps of total precipitation and percent of normal precipitation for various periods of time going back five years.  Virginia is in the Southeast region.

National Weather Service/Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, online at http://water.weather.gov/precip/.  This site offers 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/Hydrometeorological Design Studies Center, “NOAA Atlas 14 Point Precipitation Frequency Estimates: Va.,” online at http://hdsc.nws.noaa.gov/hdsc/pfds/pfds_map_cont.html?bkmrk=va.

National Weather Service/Storm Prediction Center, online at http://www.spc.noaa.gov/climo/online/.  This site provides daily maps and text for preliminary reports of severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hail.

U.S. Climate Data, “Climate Virginia,” online at https://www.usclimatedata.com/climate/virginia/united-states/3216.

Virginia Water Central News Grouper, “Virginia Water Status Report” monthly posts on precipitation and other water status aspects in Virginia, online at https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Virginia+Water+Status. 


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html).  See particularly the “Weather/Climate/Natural Disasters” subject category. 

Following are links to some other episodes on precipitation.

Freezing Rain – Episode 461, 2-25-19.
Hail – Episode 362, 4-3-17.
Precipitation in 2018 – Episode 455, 1-14-19.
Rainfall frequency probabilities – Episode 338, 10-17-16.
Water quantity information sources – Episode 546, 10-12-20.
Sleet – Episode 461, 2-25-19.
Snow chemistry and physics – Episode 407, 2-12-18.
Snow, sleet, and freezing rain compared – Episode 461, 2-25-18.
Snow terms – Episode 300, 1-25-16.
Winter precipitation and water suppliesEpisode 258, 3-23-15.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 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.”

2018 Science SOLs

Grades K-5: Scientific and Engineering Practices
K.1; 1.1; 2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1, 6.1 – Understanding scientific and engineering practices, including the following: interpreting, analyzing, and evaluating data. 

Grades K-5: Earth and Space Systems
1.7 – Weather and seasonal changes.
2.7 – Weather patterns and seasonal changes affect plants, animals, and their surroundings.
3.7 – Water cycle.
4.4 – Weather conditions and climate effects on ecosystems.

Grade 6
6.6 – Water’s unique physical properties and role in the natural and human-made environment.
6.7 – Air properties and the Earth’s atmosphere.

Earth Science
ES.11 – The atmosphere as a complex, dynamic system subject to long-and short-term variations.
ES.12 – The Earth’s weather and climate as the result of the interaction of the sun’s energy with the atmosphere, oceans, and the land.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Grades K-3 Geography Theme
1.6 – Virginia climate, seasons, and landforms.

Grades K-3 Economics Theme
2.8 – Natural, human, and capital resources.

Civics and Economics Course
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.
WG.4 – Types and significance of natural, human, and capital resources.

Government Course
GOVT.7 – National government organization and powers.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

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.
Episode 483, 7-29-19
– on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20
– on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20
– on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20
– on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.