Rain returns to much of N.Y., but High Peaks remain well below normal

This map shows the High Peaks area is well below normal in terms of precipitation this summer. (Image provided)

SARANAC LAKE — After a dry start to summer, rain has returned to much of the state. But one area in particular is considerably dryer than normal.

The High Peaks region of the Adirondacks is about 5-7 inches below expected rainfall amounts this summer, according to a state-wide weather monitoring system.

The Mesonet system is a series of weather stations that were installed in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, which caused wide-spread and devastating flooding throughout the Adirondacks and Vermont.

Nick Bassill is a Ph.D. meteorologist with SUNY Albany, and said there are a number of factors contributing to the lack of rain here while other parts of the state are above normal. For instance, one Mesonet station in the Catskills area is plus-12.2 inches, while Watkins Glen — in the Finger Lakes region — recently experienced massive flooding that resulted in the cancellation of multi-day Phish festival. The economic loss of the cancellation is estimated at $25-30 million.

But over the last 90 days, stations in the Adirondacks are below the expected amount of precipitation, with one station currently at negative 7.3 inches.

This 2011 landslide on the slopes of Gothics Mountain was caused by Tropical Storm Irene, the same storm that prompted funding of the state-wide Mesonet system. The Mesonet system currently shows the High Peaks to have 5 to 7 inches less than normal precipitation. (Photo provided)

“A lot of times, especially in later summer, some of our rain might be from hurricanes … or maybe from thunderstorm complexes that develop over Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and move eastward,” Bassill said. “We haven’t really seen that at all this summer because our pattern hasn’t really been west to east, it’s been more south to north.

“So that kind of normal pattern I described, that hasn’t happened as much this year.”

Bassill said, with a number of factors playing a role, the main one is that the high and low systems just haven’t been that active this year.

“When you get a really stagnant weather patter, which is kind of what we have,” he said. “You can kind of get what we call a feedback pattern, where what happens one day makes it more likely the next day.”

He said that the wildfires out west are probably not having an impact on local patterns, but the lack of landfall hurricanes has failed to push the stagnant weather patterns and “clear things out.”

Bassill said because much of the state is wetter than normal, he thinks the Adirondacks could get a reprieve in the near future.

“We’re moving into more of a fall-like pattern, where you get those cooler nights, so basically it looks like the pattern is going to be less stagnant,” he said. “It picks up and moves a little faster, and when that happens it tends to spread things out a little more.”