Understanding Our Recent Rainy Day Trend
Why emergency managers should monitor broader climate changes
July 12, 2023
Have you recently asked yourself, “Are we really getting more rain today than previously?” If so, you are not the only one noticing the trend.
We have seen tremendous amounts of rain in many areas of Pennsylvania this year and in the recent past. The state’s average rainfall per year is 42.77 inches, but the total average varies throughout the state. Looking at the data from the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information going back to 1895 confirms the average being right around 42.7 inches of rainfall.
If we look at the average rainfall from 2012–2022, our average statewide rainfall is 47.4 inches. When it comes to rainfall totals, that is a significant difference. So, to answer your question about seeing more rain, yes, we are seeing more rain, and this trend is likely to continue.
The rise of rain
So why are we seeing this increase year over year? There are really many factors that go into it. One of the main reasons is global warming. It comes down to simple science. When the temperature at our surface increases along with humidity, it leads to more evaporation, which increases overall precipitation. As the temperatures and humidity levels continue to increase, rainfall amounts in storms will continue to increase as well. According to the EPA, our rate of temperature change in Pennsylvania is about a 2 to 4-degree average throughout the state per century. This trend is expected to continue and increase over time. If you recall recently, we set the record for the hottest day recorded on Earth on July 3, which was immediately broken the next day on July 4.
Takeaways for Emergency Managers
What does this all mean for emergency managers? Mostly, you need to have situational awareness. We always say to plan and prepare now for the next worst flood or another type of emergency that comes along with heavy rainfall or extreme temperatures. And remember, your hospital does not have to be directly impacted to face the effects of flooding. In a major storm, there may be widespread flooding issues that impact whole communities. This may impact staff members directly causing them to be in danger or at the least unable to get into work due to impassible roadways. Staffing contingency plans may need to be established because of a region-wide flooding disaster.
Another potential impact will be felt by emergency medical services (EMS). Whether your facility has its own EMS organization or works with outside organizations, there may be impassible road conditions that limit the accessibility to patients’ homes or to your facility. It is best to have someone monitor the roadway closures and alert EMS to these conditions. I recommend continuously monitoring 511PA for these closures.
As the environment changes, we have to adapt to the change and continue to be proactive and think of potential direct or indirect impacts that the weather may cause for us.
For more information, don’t hesitate to contact me or HAP’s Emergency Management team.