– by Dennis Hodgin

A recent effort by UConn scientists to update Connecticut’s rainfall statistics has revealed that the state has been getting significantly wetter! I am not a plant scientist and my first reaction was that this can only be good news for our forests, as tree (mass) growth is known to have a direct correlation with average annual rainfall amounts. But it seems that there could potentially be a dark side to these new findings. At least one forester has asked if the resulting rainfall could be more acidic. This is an excellent question since Connecticut and New England has been described as being at the end of a 3000 mile long sewer line that picks up airborne pollution from across our country, especially the (sulfur) emissions from Midwest coal burning power plants. While the (negative) effects of acid rain have been documented for forests in upstate New York and parts of Northern New England, it could be another 20 years before the positive and negative effects of increased rainfall on Connecticut forests are well understood. Hopefully, the news will good.

The DEP-sponsored study was initiated to update the existing rainfall statistics, which were half a century old. It seems that Connecticut is one of the few areas in the country that has extensive rainfall data for a 100-year period. The soon-to-be published study shows a 10 percent increase in average annual rainfall over the past 100 years, and this is described as a significant change.

This new rainfall data will likely make the biggest ripple (no pun intended of course!) in the Civil Engineering community, which uses it for the design of storm drains, culverts, and bridges.

Our historically plentiful rainfall has been a major reason that Connecticut is a very good place to grow trees, and hopefully this trend will continue. Most people do not realize that the average annual rainfall of Connecticut exceeds that for Seattle! I have won a few beers over the years by knowing that Seattle annually receives about 40 inches of rainfall and Connecticut about 45 inches, based on “Fifty Year” statistics I read in an engineering handbook about 25 years ago. It will be interesting to see how the results of the new study affect the current 5-inch rainfall delta between Connecticut and that wet and gloomy city of Seattle. Stay tuned – it could be worth a couple of beers to you!

Note: Information for some of this story was gleaned from an article written by Mark Hood that appeared in the 4th quarter 2002 edition of the UConn “College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Journal.”

This article originally appeared in the March 2003 ECFLA/WDLT Newsletter.