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NC city saw 100 inches of rain this year. More could be coming, scientists say.

Carolinas cities are chasing rainfall records for 2018 after a year of downpours that scientists say bear the hallmarks of climate change.

Coastal Wilmington, which got 23 inches of rain from Hurricane Florence alone, passed the 100-inch mark for the year on Saturday, the National Weather Service reported. That’s 42 inches above the annual average and 16 inches higher than the record set in 1877.

Asheville’s nearly 72 inches of precipitation so far this year ranks second-highest on record. Seventy-five inches fell on the mountain city in 2013. Greensboro is less than 2 inches shy of its 62-inch annual record.

North Carolina’s record for the most rain in a year was set in 1964, when 129 inches swamped the mountain community of Rosman, according to the N.C. Climate Office.

Charlotte’s been soggy too but isn’t likely to set a rain record. The city’s airport has measured 56 inches so far, 16 inches above normal for the year to date but 12 inches short of the annual record set in 1884.

Record or near-record rainfall has been recorded across the East Coast and Midwest. Climate Central, which reports on the science of climate change, said an analysis based on Dec. 10 data showed that 133 weather stations in 21 states have seen record precipitation this year.

The link to climate change: a warming atmosphere holds more moisture. Climate Central has predicted that 42 states in the contiguous U.S. will see increased runoff from heavy rain by 2050.

The 23 inches that drenched Wilmington over four days in September was the largest total from a single weather event in the city’s history, the National Weather Service’s Wilmington office reported. Federal climate estimates, it said, show that the city is likely to see that much rain in such a short time only once every 1,000 years.

Rising floodwaters from Florence largely isolated the coastal city from the rest of the state, Raleigh’s News & Observer reported.

Low-pressure systems, cold and warm fronts and thunderstorms dumped rain on the city for much of the year, according to the weather service. But above-average rainfall has been a recent trend — the past five-year period has been Wilmington’s wettest since record-keeping began in 1871.

In the Southeast, unlike much of the U.S., average overnight low temperatures have risen three times faster than daytime highs since the 1950s, says the government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment, which was released in November. The number of days with more than 3 inches of rain has been above long-term normals since the 1990s.

“The number of extreme rainfall events is increasing,” the assessment states. “Climate model simulations of future conditions project increases in both temperature and extreme precipitation.”

Nearly 59 inches of Wilmington’s record rainfall this year fell in just 17 days, the weather service reported.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051; @bhender
Bruce Henderson writes about transportation, emerging issues and interesting people for The Charlotte Observer. His reporting background is in covering energy, environment and state news.
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