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In a month, the state goes from drought to over-soaked

  • Jim Hilt of Bow holds his rain gauge that overflowed into the outer container after last Thursday’s 2.11 inches of rain. The inner tube holds an inch of water and then overflows into the outer portion. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 8/3/2021 4:20:16 PM

July was wet, we can all agree, although few of us know as precisely as Jim Hilt of Bow.

“Since 1982 I’ve recorded (rainfall) every day,” said Hilt, a former weather forecaster for the Air Force who has a weather station at his home.

This daily tally means that as we neared the end of July he knew it was something special, in a soggy way.

“I’m watching it and telling my wife: ‘We’ve got to get this much more and we’ll be number 3 all time,” he recalled. “Then on the 29th we got 2.11 (inches) in one shot and that blew away the previous record.”

His total for July: 15.72 inches. “That beats my monthly record of 15.46 inches in May 2005 … which I remember flooded the area around Bow Junction.”

Like many of us, Hilt didn’t just get a lot of rain, he also got a lot of rainy days.

“I had measurable rain on 22 days – that must be some kind of record, but I don’t track that in my spreadsheet,” he said.

Others do, however, including the Northeast Regional Climate Center in Ithaca, N.Y. It uses National Weather Service data from the state’s official recording station at Concord Municipal Airport, and says the city had 20 days with measurable precipitation, the most for any July on record and second-most for any month since the late 1800’s. 

The center says 13.04 inches of rain fell in Concord during July compared to an average of 3.82 inches. That’s almost four times the normal – the biggest percentage increase of any city in the Northeast, which by the center’s definition extends clear down to West Virginia. It also clobbered the previous July record of 10.3 inches set in 1915.

The difference between Hilt’s total and the airport total reflects how variable rainfall can be, especially when it comes in the form of relatively small but intense storms, as was often the case in July.

“Much of the time the flow was out of the east and northeast – when that happens, our rainfall tends to be a little more than in Concord,” said Hilt.

Cheshire County in the state’s southwest corner was the hardest by storms, flooding more than once, including damage to roads, bridges and buildings in some 20 towns last weekend.

The July soaking followed a year of mostly below-normal precipitation that had placed the majority of the state in drought or near-drought conditions. No longer.

“Through the end of June we were 7.11 inches below normal for the 6 months,” said Hilt, pondering his spreadsheet. Now he’s more than four inches above normal.

Will this very-rainy stretch continue? It’s not expected to, says the National Weather Service, but then again nobody expected July to be a record. This reflects how global climate change is making it harder and harder to use the past to predict the future.

Although Hilt has a high-tech weather station that can, among other things, measure solar intensity in watts per meter, he measures rain with a manual rain gauge that he checks every morning as part of the national citizen-science program known as Community Collaborative Rain-Hail-Snow Network, known as CoCoRaHS.

“It’s a basic old rain gauge. It’s the best, it really is, it’s super-accurate,” he said.

You can see his data, and measurements from at least three dozen other New Hampshire observers, at www.cocorahs.org. He also reports tallies for WBZ-TV in Boston.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of the monthly Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.



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