By Kris Parker
It will come as no surprise to anyone slogging down Adirondack trails this summer: July was a rainy one, with few sunny days.
Anecdotally, at least, some outdoor recreation observers believe the weather has dampened park visitation, though the lifting of pandemic restrictions may also have cut into last year’s traffic.
“It certainly feels like we’ve had more down days due to the rain,” said Rich Harris of Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters in Saranac Lake. “Overall, we’re a bit quieter than last year, though we’re unsure if it’s related to COVID and people are just visiting different places.”
“It feels like we’ve had more rain this summer.”
For July, that’s true. For the full season so far—and especially the year to date—the numbers are mixed. In fact, a dry start to the year has kept parts of the northern Adirondacks from breaking out of a drought designation.
“We have seen an uptick in precipitation in parts of the Adirondacks, and in Vermont and Massachusetts a lot of stations have seen close to record amounts of precipitation,” said Marlon Verasamy, the observing program leader at the National Weather Service station in Burlington, Vermont. “The southern Adirondacks and the Capital Region have seen higher levels of precipitation, but not so much in the north.”
In Saranac Lake, according to the National Weather Service, July logged 4.49 inches of precipitation, compared to the station’s 30-year average reading of 4.06 inches. There were two clear days, while the rest were either partly cloudy or entirely overcast. A year ago, July produced 12 clear days, and 4.39 inches of rain.
While this July was wetter than normal, Saranac Lake’s year-to-date precipitation is lagging. By month’s end the station had received 16.57 inches, compared to an average of 20.69 inches. (The full-year average is 36.61 inches.)
Other parts of New York have been much wetter this summer. Buffalo, for instance, more than doubled its average July rainfall to 7.49 inches, making it the city’s third-wettest July on record.
Currently 12.57% of New York is experiencing drought, while one year ago the total was 77.77% of the state.
The U.S. Drought Monitor has listed the majority of Saint Lawrence County, parts of Essex and Hamilton counties, and all of Franklin County as either abnormally dry or experiencing moderate drought conditions.
Whatever the reason, there seems to be more room to roam—and to park—in the Adirondack High Peaks region this summer.
“Based on what Saturdays look like, we’re not seeing the tons of cars parked down Loj Road,” said Ben Brosseau of the Adirondack Mountain Club. “This summer feels like an exception. The overflow in parking does not appear to be as bad as in years past.”
On the bright side, this summer’s precipitation has help to clear the region’s sky of the smoky haze that has blown over from the massive wildfires in the West and Canada. The smoke has drifted all the way to New York City and can cause negative health consequences, particularly for those with respiratory issues. The haze over the Adirondacks will typically dissipate after a day of rain.
Studies show that climate change is affecting the Northeast’s precipitation patterns, though the link to current weather and cumulative drought is less clear. Warming temperatures can lead to greater evaporation and surface drying, though warming air also has greater capacity to hold vapor.
“It can be hard to attribute specific wet or dry spells to climate change,” said Justin Minder, an associate professor of atmospheric and environmental sciences at the University at Albany. “There’s not necessarily a glaring fingerprint on the drought in the Adirondacks.”