How can I find a history of precipitation data for a specific location?
February 1, 2012 2:25 PM   Subscribe

How can I find a history of precipitation data for a particular location? I have been tasked with finding the top 5-10 rainfall days of the last 20-30 years for a particular location (in Suffolk County New York, zip code 11743). I know I won't be able to pinpoint it exactly to the location, but the closest weather station or data from a point nearby would suffice. I started to poke around on the NOAA website and it seems like the data is there, I just can't tell what I need. The goal is to finish the sentence: "Over the last 20-30 years, the following days had the most rainfall at station or lcation x:" Thanks!
posted by brbmaroon to Science & Nature (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Assuming there's a gage in the right place, I find the USGS rainfall data pretty easy to use.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:40 PM on February 1, 2012


There is Weatherbase, but it doesn't look like there is much data near that zip code.

You might also try NNDC CDO. If you go through that, they have Macarthur Airport (well, two MacArthur Airport stations, must have relocated it or something), and you can ask for a table of data.
posted by Fortran at 3:05 PM on February 1, 2012


It doesn't look like the data go back that far, but this link will take you to data since 2001 for Sag Harbor.
posted by Betelgeuse at 3:08 PM on February 1, 2012


I used to work for a large public library that had access to NOAA data through a subscription. We could find lots of info not available to the general public. If you're striking out, give the NYPL a call and see if they can help you out.
posted by jabes at 3:10 PM on February 1, 2012


I was going to suggest the USGS water data site as well, but unfortunately there aren't many rain gages listed there for NY. There's a Suffolk County gage in Sag Harbor, which is pretty far east; there's also one in Flushing if that's helpful at all. Neither, though, goes back as far in time as you'd like. (Sag Harbor to mid-2001; Flushing only reports the most recent 120 days). You can try contacting the New York Water Data support team (their contact info is at the bottom of the USGS water data pages) to see if they have additional records that aren't published online.

On preview, what Betelgeuse said.
posted by pemberkins at 3:10 PM on February 1, 2012


Ah! From the same source as Fortran's suggestion, there's a precipitation data page: National Climatic Data Center Precipitation Data. Looks like there's at least a couple Suffolk County points in here.
posted by pemberkins at 3:19 PM on February 1, 2012


WolframAlpha can give you some of what you need here for the last 10 years. Max. Rainfall was 16" in October 2005. Unfortunately 'show all' will aggregate the data for the year but there may be a way to finess it.
posted by azlondon at 4:17 PM on February 1, 2012


You can get the last five years of data free from the local National Weather Service office. Choose "Preliminary Monthly Climate Data (CF6)" then Islip and the month of your choice. Daily data is grouped by month, so you'll need to bring up 60 pages to the five years of data.

It may be faster and easier if you get in touch with the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell. There is a fee for getting data.

Note that the Islip/MacArthur records only go back to 1984.
posted by plastic_animals at 4:44 PM on February 1, 2012


Islip daily history, all the way back to 1973.

Dunno if you can get that in an easier to use format (such as a spreadsheet), but it's a start.
posted by notyou at 8:00 AM on February 2, 2012


I do this for work all the time. If you need to go back more than a five or so years, the answer is the NCDC link that pemberkins posted. It looks like the Upton station has data back to 1948. You should be able to get all available daily data from any one station for around $70.
posted by Uncle Jimmy at 8:32 AM on February 2, 2012


I called the Northeast Regional Climate Center and they are sending me exactly what I need for under $100. Thanks everyone!
posted by brbmaroon at 1:49 PM on February 2, 2012


Weather underground has a historical weather section, have you tried that? I'd check myself, but I'm on an iPod currently.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:36 PM on February 2, 2012


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