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Record-setting rain this year across the United States

CNN logo CNN 12/19/2018 By Judson Jones, CNN Meteorologist
WILMINGTON, NC - SEPTEMBER 15: Mike Pollack searches for a drain in the yard of his flooded waterfront home a day after Hurricane Florence hit the area, on September 15, 2018 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm Friday and at least five deaths have been attributed to the storm, which continues to produce heavy rain and strong winds extending out nearly 200 miles. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) © Mark Wilson/Getty Images WILMINGTON, NC - SEPTEMBER 15: Mike Pollack searches for a drain in the yard of his flooded waterfront home a day after Hurricane Florence hit the area, on September 15, 2018 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm Friday and at least five deaths have been attributed to the storm, which continues to produce heavy rain and strong winds extending out nearly 200 miles. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

For many in the eastern half of the United States, rain boots, rain jackets and umbrellas have been in regular wardrobe rotation this year.

Places like Washington, DC, have seen the most rain they have ever seen in a calendar year.

In fact, 78 cities across the United States are on track to have their wettest years on record. At least 16 of those have already broken their yearly records, according to data from NOAA Regional Climate Centers.

The continental United States as a whole is on pace to be the fifth wettest year on record and eight states are on track to have their wettest years on record.

Much of the Mid-Atlantic has observed 20 inches above what they get in an average year.

Some places, like Wilmington, North Carolina, have seen more than 40 inches above the yearly average. Not only has Wilmington shattered its previous yearly record of 83.65 inches, set back in 1877, but it also surpassed 100 inches of rain in a single year.

That's about the same height as a standard deep end in a backyard swimming pool.

The state of North Carolina has had above-average rainfall in 2018 due to a steady stream of non-tropical low-pressure systems, cold and warm fronts, and daytime thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington.

Much of it is also due to the record-breaking 23.02 inch rainfall Wilmington received over a three day period during Hurricane Florence.

Climate change is making storms like Hurricane Florence worse

Washington won't reach 100 inches of rain like Wilmington has this year. But rainfall in the city is still setting a significant record.

In addition to having its rainiest year on record, Washington is also seeing its wettest November and its second wettest Autumn. Numerous daily rainfall records have also been broken throughout the year.

Climate change connection

While it isn't totally clear how much of this year's copious rain is due to climate change, it is clear extreme precipitation like this is a sign of a warming planet.

"Across most of the United States, the heaviest rainfall events have become heavier and more frequent," the US government's Fourth National Climate Assessment states. "The amount of rain falling on the heaviest rain days has also increased over the past few decades."

a close up of a map © NOAA a close up of a map © Provided by CNN

Take Wilmington, for example: over the course of just 17 days this year, it saw a total 58.96 inches of rain. That's more than in an entire typical year.

The report says that both the Northeast and Southeast are vulnerable to an increase in precipitation rate and events.

"The recent dominant trend in precipitation throughout the Northeast has been towards increases in rainfall intensity, with recent increases in intensity exceeding those in other regions in the contiguous United States."

The report goes on to say that increases in rainfall intensity are expected, with the highest increase in precipitation during the winter and spring months.

In the Southeast, the report states, "both the frequency and severity of extreme precipitation events are projected to continue increasing ... under both lower and higher scenarios."

In other words, with the current state of our climate, record rainfall is likely going to be a recurring headline in the eastern United States.

CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller contributed to this report

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