Have you ever wondered which state receives the most rain each year? Perhaps you’re tired of watching the rain pour down outside your window, and you’re wondering if you can proudly proclaim your state to be the nation’s rainiest. Maybe you’re looking to book a vacation under sunny skies and want to know which places to avoid. Or perhaps you are just curious. Whatever the case may be, we have your answer in this article! Read on to discover which states are the rainiest in the United States.
Before we get to the list, we should tell you how it’s constructed. We’re using data from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information that is helpfully aggregated by Extreme Weather Watch, a website that provides easily accessible weather and climate data. These average annual rainfall values represent not just the average over time, but also the average over the whole state’s area. For the purposes of this list, we’re using data from the most recent standard climate period, 1991-2020, to capture some of the effects of climate change.
The 11 Rainiest States in the United States
With all that in mind, here is our list of the eleven rainiest states in the US.
- Average Annual Precipitation: 59.7 inches
- Wettest Month: January (5.7 inches)
- Driest Month: Tie September, October, and November (4.5 inches)
Louisiana is the rainiest state in the US, with 59.7 inches of average annual rainfall. Louisiana’s primary advantage is its proximity to both the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Plains.
Rain requires moisture to be present in the atmosphere and something to force that moisture to rise and condense into rain. The nearby Gulf of Mexico gives Louisiana plenty of moisture, especially because it’s so warm. Moisture enters the atmosphere from bodies of water like lakes and oceans through a process known as evaporation. The total amount of moisture entering the air depends on the size of the lake/ocean in question and the rate at which evaporation occurs. Warmer water evaporates moisture into the air more quickly than colder water. The Gulf of Mexico is large and warm, so it is an evaporation powerhouse.
All that nearby warm water also helps Louisiana earn the title of third-warmest state in the country.
All that moisture wouldn’t do much good for our rainiest state tally if it didn’t condense into rain, though! That’s where Louisiana’s second advantage comes in. The state is not only located close to the Gulf of Mexico but also to the Great Plains, which provide a steady stream of cooler and drier air masses that charge southeast. When the cooler and drier air from the Plains hits the moisture-laden air from the Gulf of Mexico, rain can pour down in buckets.
If you get too close to the Plains, like Texas or Oklahoma, you don’t get enough moisture to claim the number one spot on our list. If you get too far from the Plains, like Florida or South Carolina, for example, you don’t get enough clashing of air masses to squeeze the moisture out of the air in the form of rain. Louisiana sits in the perfect “Goldilocks zone” for heavy rain to fall almost every month of the year, putting it at the top of our list.
Louisiana’s rain falls consistently throughout the year, with the wettest month (January) recording just 1.2 inches more than the driest months (September, October, and November). On average, early winter and midsummer are the two rainier periods, while late winter and fall are just a bit drier.
Are you looking to plan a trip to the country’s rainiest state? Louisiana is probably most famous for the rich history, culture, and food found in New Orleans. If the skies open up, you can duck into a jazz club, creole restaurant, or one of the many bars. If you want to escape the crowds, consider going on a swamp tour! Louisiana’s copious rainfall supports vast swamps, which are home to a wide variety of interesting wildlife.
- Average Annual Precipitation: 58.5 inches
- Wettest Month: April (5.7 inches)
- Driest Month: September (3.8 inches)
Just east of Louisiana sits Mississippi in the number two spot, with 58.5 inches of rain falling annually. Like Louisiana, Mississippi benefits from the frequent juxtaposition of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and cooler/drier air masses swinging down from the Great Plains. Because Mississippi stretches farther north, away from the Gulf of Mexico, compared to Louisiana, its area-averaged precipitation is less than our top state. That said, Mississippi is still a great place to watch raindrops fall if that’s what you’re into.
Like its neighbor to the west, Mississippi’s rain falls consistently throughout the year. Late winter is a bit wetter in Mississippi, thanks partly to prevailing westerly winds that push moisture from the Gulf of Mexico more east than north during the cooler months. Autumn is Mississippi’s drier season as high pressure becomes more frequent and cooler air masses are held at bay by lingering summer heat.
Mississippi’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico also helps it rank highly (in spot number 5) on our list of warmest US states, just like Louisiana.
Mississippi has plenty to offer visitors, including beaches on the Gulf Coast, Civil War history (especially in Vicksburg), and great food across the state.
- Average Annual Precipitation: 56.9 inches
- Wettest Month: December (5.5 inches)
- Driest Month: October (3.5 inches)
Immediately east of Mississippi sits Alabama, just a little farther from those cooler and drier air masses that help wring out the Gulf moisture over Louisiana but still close enough to record plenty of rain each year. Like Mississippi, Alabama is soggiest near the Gulf Coast, while the northern part of the state is just a bit drier. Our statewide precipitation value reflects the average of both parts of the state.
Like the other Gulf Coast states we’ve been discussing, Alabama enjoys consistent precipitation year round. Average monthly rainfall varies by no more than two inches between the driest month, October, and the wettest month, December. Winter is generally slightly wetter, with December, January, February, and March posting more than five inches of precipitation on average. Autumn is somewhat drier, with September, October, and November together averaging about four inches of monthly precipitation.
Like Mississippi, Alabama has some great beaches along the Gulf Coast if that’s up your alley. If you’re more of a history buff, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma are home to key sites in the Civil Rights movement. Mobile, on the Gulf Coast, is also home to the USS Alabama, one of the battleships that fought in the Pacific during World War II.
- Average Annual Precipitation: 55.1 inches
- Wettest Month: December (5.4 inches)
- Driest Month: October (3.6 inches)
Just north of Alabama and Mississippi sits our fourth-rainiest state: Tennessee. Tennessee has a bit less Gulf moisture than its neighbors to the south but retains enough to produce plenty of rain, especially since it sits a bit closer to the source of cooler and drier air masses that help wring moisture out of the air in the form of rain.
The eastern part of Tennessee is home to the Appalachian Mountains, another important part of the state’s number four showing. Like cool, dry air masses surging from the northwest, mountains can help produce rain by forcing moisture-laden air to rise and cool, leading to condensation and rain. In fact, the “smoke” for which the Great Smoky Mountains are named is just moisture condensing into small cloud droplets (the precursor to rain) as it is forced to climb up the mountainside.
Tennessee’s precipitation is a bit more seasonal than its neighbors to the south, with winter and spring being the wettest portion of the year, while late summer and fall are a bit drier. Still, its wettest month, December, brings in just 1.8 inches more precipitation than its driest month, October.
Tennessee has plenty to do, from world-famous music in Nashville to barbecue and blues in Memphis to hiking and fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains.
- Average Annual Precipitation: 54.4 inches
- Wettest Month: June (7.7 inches)
- Driest Month: November (2.4 inches)
Our fifth-rainiest state somehow got away with naming itself “The Sunshine State” despite averaging 54.4 inches of rain each year. Sticking out like a sore thumb into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and subtropical Atlantic, you might wonder why Florida isn’t at the top of our list with so much available moisture.
The answer is that without any mountains and only infrequent access to cool/dry air masses from the northwest, Florida can sometimes have difficulty squeezing its moisture out of the air in the form of rain. It happens often enough to earn the state a respectable fifth-place showing, but it can’t compete with its neighbors to the northwest.
How does Florida manage so much rain without mountains or cool/dry air readily available? The answer is the sea breeze! Sea breezes form because land warms up much faster than water each day when the sun comes out. Warm air is less dense than cold air, so it rises. Cooler air from the water must then rush inland to fill the gap. When this cool(er) air advances inland, it forces even more air to rise, which lets its moisture condense into cloud droplets and, eventually, rain.
Because Florida is a peninsula, sometimes sea breezes can form on both the Atlantic and the Gulf sides, colliding in the middle of the state and forming powerful thunderstorms in the process.
Florida’s precipitation is much more seasonal than the other states we’ve discussed so far. In fact, most Floridians talk about their year in terms of the “dry season” compared to the “wet season” instead of the four-season framework most of us are more familiar with. Why does this happen? Because Florida extends so far south, it has a climate more similar to the tropics than the mid-latitudes most of us are probably more familiar with.
Wherever the sun’s rays are most intense on Earth, a band of thunderstorms usually pops up to take advantage of the extra energy. On average, this is along the equator, but it varies by season. In the boreal (Northern Hemisphere) summer, this band of thunderstorms shifts north to about Florida’s latitude. North of these thunderstorms, a zone of generally higher barometric pressure and sunnier skies is found, on average, in what we call the subtropics. The position of this high-pressure zone shifts by season, too. It moves to places like Chicago and New York in the summer, occasionally bringing intense heat waves.
Fun fact: the movement of this high-pressure system is also responsible for the rhythm of annual precipitation in the nation’s driest corner! You can read more about that in our articles on the country’s driest cities and states.
When this broad area of high pressure retreats north of Florida in the summer and is replaced by a band of tropical thunderstorms, the state can receive prolific rain. June, July, and August each average over seven inches of precipitation across the state. When most of that is falling in semi-isolated thunderstorms, that statewide average is seriously impressive! Tropical storms and hurricanes can help bring heavy rain, too, especially later in the summer.
In the winter, the band of tropical thunderstorms shifts away to the Southern Hemisphere, and Florida is once again left under the spell of the subtropical high-pressure system. That means that the cooler months in Florida are also considerably drier. November, December, and February each record less than three inches of precipitation on average. January is a smidge wetter, at 3.3 inches, when winter storms from the north can graze, especially in northern parts of the state.
Florida is best known for its beaches, boating, and fishing, which can be found essentially all over the state. If you want to take a break from the water, Disney World and other theme parks in Orlando are also very popular destinations. Florida is America’s second-warmest state, so while your outdoor plans might be impacted by rain, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about shivering!
- Average Annual Precipitation: 52.5 inches
- Wettest Month: May (5.5 inches)
- Driest Month: August (3.6 inches)
Just north of Louisiana is our sixth-rainiest state, Arkansas, with 52.5 inches of average annual rainfall. Being so close to our rainiest state, you might have expected Arkansas to rank higher on our list. Why can Tennessee get more Gulf of Mexico moisture than Arkansas despite being farther away?
The answer has to do with the prevailing winds. Outside of the tropics, winds blow from west to east, on average. That means moisture coming north from the Gulf of Mexico often gets pushed to the east rather than straight north. As a result, Arkansas gets just a bit more dry Plains air, while Tennessee gets just a bit more Gulf of Mexico moisture. Arkansas still gets plenty of rain, just less than its neighbors to the south and east.
Much like its neighbors to the south and east, Arkansas doesn’t have much of a seasonal precipitation cycle. The ‘dry season’ of late summer and fall averages only about 1.5 inches less precipitation per month than the ‘wet season’ during the spring. Spring is generally the wetter season in Arkansas because it’s when the state experiences the best overlap of moisture and forcing for storms. During the heart of summer, Arkansas is extremely humid and full of moisture, but that moisture doesn’t have as much motivation to leave the air in the form of rain. During the winter, air masses can clash frequently over the state, but there isn’t quite as much moisture available due to the generally cooler air.
Arkansas has plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking and fishing in the Ozarks, a hilly region of thick forest in the center and northern parts of the state. If you end up near the capital city of Little Rock, consider checking out Hot Springs National Park, just a short drive west.
7. North Carolina
- Average Annual Precipitation: 50.8 inches
- Wettest Month: September (5.3 inches)
- Driest Month: February (3.4 inches)
Slightly farther from the Gulf Coast, North Carolina manages to take spot number seven thanks to its proximity to the warm Gulf Stream current and the Appalachian Mountains in the western part of the state. Being farther north than Florida means North Carolina can tap into cooler/drier air masses more frequently to help wring out moisture. Eastern North Carolina can get some high-quality moisture from the nearby Gulf Stream, but the rest of the state usually relies on the Gulf of Mexico. Since Gulf of Mexico moisture can get rained out over Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina before it arrives in North Carolina, it can’t compete with states farther southwest.
North Carolina’s extra latitude also helps it follow a more typical mid-latitude precipitation cycle. Summertime is North Carolina’s wetter season, with more than five inches of rain falling during July, August, and September (June isn’t far behind with 4.7 inches) thanks to greater moisture availability. Winter’s cooler temperatures limit the amount of moisture available to passing storm systems. Therefore, the cooler months are generally drier.
North Carolina has a little something for everyone, including beaches along the Outer Banks, hiking in the western mountains, and great food, history, and culture in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensburg.
- Average Annual Precipitation: 50.4 inches
- Wettest Month: Tie June, July, and August (5.0 inches)
- Driest Month: October (3.2 inches)
The Peach State ties Kentucky for spot number eight thanks to a reliable moisture supply from the Gulf of Mexico. Georgia doesn’t quite have as much mountainous terrain as North Carolina and has a bit less access to cool/dry air masses compared to states to its west, which explains why it doesn’t rank higher on our list. That said, 50.4 inches of rain each year is respectable enough.
Georgia enjoys consistent precipitation throughout the year, with the summertime being just a bit wetter than the rest of the year, thanks to the abundance of moisture most commonly felt in the form of oppressive humidity. Spring and fall are the state’s slightly drier seasons, but not by much.
Georgia has some great beaches on its sliver of Atlantic Coast and has some good hiking in the hilly northeastern part of the state. In between, you’ll find a famous golf course in Augusta and all the bustling attractions of Atlanta, including the world’s busiest airport.
- Average Annual Precipitation: 50.4 inches
- Wettest Month: May (5.1 inches)
- Driest Month: Tie October and November (3.5 inches)
Kentucky is farther from the Gulf of Mexico moisture than Georgia but closer to cooler/drier air masses that can help turn moisture into rain. It seems as though these two competing factors have fought each other to a precise draw, with both states picking up exactly 50.4 inches of average annual rainfall.
Like most other southern states, Kentucky enjoys consistent rain throughout the year, with its wettest month recording just 1.6 inches of additional rain compared to its driest month on average. Spring is the slightly wetter season in Kentucky, much like Arkansas and Tennessee, when the combination of moisture and forcing for storm development is most optimal. Late fall into winter, when the air is cooler and thus drier, features slightly less precipitation on average.
Kentucky is probably best known for its horses and bourbon, which you can find in abundance across the state’s rolling hills.
10. Rhode Island
- Average Annual Precipitation: 49.1 inches
- Wettest Month: Tie March, October, and December (4.8 inches)
- Driest Month: July (3.4 inches)
Rhode Island might seem like a strange contender for spot number ten, given that it is located relatively far north, away from the Gulf of Mexico, and even somewhat far from the Gulf Stream. That said, Rhode Island is often squarely in the crosshairs of powerful storms embedded within the jet stream, usually located directly above the Ocean State during winter. These intense storms can bring moisture up from the Gulf of Mexico and the tropical Atlantic that might not otherwise be available to a state so far away from either.
This proximity to the jet stream also lets Rhode Island enjoy consistent precipitation throughout the year despite more variable temperatures than other states on our list. The weather pattern gets stormier as the air gets cooler in the winter, so precipitation can continue to fall. Despite much cooler temperatures, spring, fall, and winter are home to Rhode Island’s wettest months (March, October, and December). In the summer, the weather pattern is more tranquil, and thus, July is the state’s driest month despite the more humid conditions supported by warmer temperatures.
Rhode Island has some fantastic beaches along its southern coast and great opportunities for sailing in Narragansett Bay. Its capital city, Providence, has a thriving arts scene.
- Average Annual Precipitation: 48.7 inches
- Wettest Month: October (4.8 inches)
- Driest Month: February (3.1 inches)
Just west of Rhode Island sits another small New England state, Connecticut. Much like Rhode Island, Connecticut relies on powerful winter storms to bring heavy precipitation to the state in the cooler months. In the summer, Connecticut benefits from a semi-permanent high-pressure system known as the Bermuda High.
Winds circulate clockwise around high-pressure systems, so having one anchored over Bermuda means that southerly winds are favored over the East Coast during the summer. This air current helps bring moisture from the tropical Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico up the East Coast to parts of New England that otherwise wouldn’t get especially humid. With the Bermuda High supplying moisture, sea breezes and/or intrusions of cooler air from Canada can result in heavy rain over Connecticut during the summer.
Connecticut’s precipitation follows a subtly different seasonal cycle from its neighbor to the east because it is just a bit farther from the Atlantic Ocean. Being a bit farther inland lets Connecticut get colder in the winter, limiting precipitation totals. Thus, February is the state’s driest month. In the summer, sea breezes can blow cool, dense air into Rhode Island much more easily than Connecticut, inhibiting thunderstorm development. As a result, Connecticut gets a bit more rain during the summer. Like Rhode Island, though, October is favorable for heavy precipitation in Connecticut as the first strong storms of the cool season enjoy plenty of leftover summer moisture.
Connecticut has an excellent mix of activities, from beaches along its southern coast to the bustling cities of New Haven and Hartford to remote hiking trails in the hilly northwest corner of the state.
Average Annual Precipitation by State
Now that you’ve seen our list of the wettest states in the US, perhaps you’re curious about where the other states rank. What about Hawaii, for example, the home of Hilo, the rainiest city in the country? Hawaii ranks much lower on our list because about half of the state is on the dry, leeward side of its famous volcanoes. So, for every acre of rainforest, there is an acre of arid land to keep the averages down.
You might also be surprised to see states like Washington and Oregon, home to famously rainy cities like Seattle and Portland, relatively low on the list. It can be easy to forget, but most of the land area of these states is east of the Cascade Mountains, which act as a shield that blocks Pacific moisture from advancing inland.
Explore the complete list of US states ranked by average annual precipitation below:
1. Louisiana: 59.7 inches
2. Mississippi: 58.5 inches
3. Alabama: 56.9 inches
4. Tennessee: 55.1 inches
5. Florida: 54.4 inches
6. Arkansas: 52.5 inches
7. North Carolina: 50.8 inches
8. Georgia: 50.4 inches
9. Kentucky: 50.4 inches
10. Rhode Island: 49.1 inches
11. Connecticut: 48.7 inches
12. Massachusetts: 48.6 inches
13. South Carolina: 48.3 inches
14. New Hampshire: 47.9 inches
15. New Jersey: 47.6 inches
16. West Virginia: 47.1 inches
17. Vermont: 46.0 inches
18. Delaware: 45.9 inches
19. Virginia: 45.8 inches
20. Maine: 45.5 inches
21. Maryland: 45.2 inches
22. Pennsylvania: 45.0 inches
23. Indiana: 43.6 inches
24. Missouri: 43.5 inches
25. New York: 43.5 inches
26. Hawaii*: 43.2 inches
27. Washington: 43.2 inches
28. Ohio: 41.1 inches
29. Illinois: 40.7 inches
30. Alaska: 37.6 inches
31. Oklahoma: 36.4 inches
32. Iowa: 35.6 inches
33. Wisconsin: 34.1 inches
34. Michigan: 33.9 inches
35. Oregon: 32.1 inches
36. Kansas: 29.0 inches
37. Minnesota: 28.6 inches
38. Texas: 28.6 inches
39. Nebraska: 24.2 inches
40. Idaho: 23.7 inches
41. California: 22.3 inches
42. South Dakota: 21.2 inches
43. Montana: 18.9 inches
44. North Dakota: 18.8 inches
45. Colorado: 18.0 inches
46. Wyoming: 16.0 inches
47. New Mexico: 13.8 inches
48. Utah: 13.5 inches
49. Arizona: 11.6 inches
50. Nevada: 10.2 inches
*Data for all states except Hawaii is calculated by the NOAA. For Hawaii, the number represents the average of 5 locations: Honolulu, Hilo, Molokai Airport, Lihue, and Kula Hospital at an elevation of 944 meters in Maui.
Rain requires the presence of moisture in the atmosphere and some way of lifting that moisture-laden air so it can condense into rain. The rainiest states in the country are mainly near the Gulf of Mexico, which provides abundant moisture and is far enough north that cool/dry air masses can occasionally sweep in to help turn moisture into rain. States that are either a little farther from the Gulf (Kentucky, Tennessee) or a little farther from the jet stream (Florida) can still produce lots of rain, but not quite as much as those in the “Goldilocks zone,” such as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
Finally, some New England states have snuck onto our list despite being very far from the Gulf of Mexico because strong winter storms can carry moisture long distances during the winter, and the Bermuda High can deliver reliable moisture during the summer.