The perception of Seattle’s weather boils down to one word: rain. If you were to talk to anyone who’s not from the area about the Emerald City, that word is brought up a fair bit. The problem is, it’s not an entirely fair assessment of the local climate. The basic understanding of Seattle’s weather comes down to this - Seattle's climate has cool, wet winters and warm, relatively dry summers.
What’s in dispute is when does summer begin and end, and when does winter begin or end. The running joke in the area is that summer doesn’t officially start until July 5th. And winter? Well, winter in Seattle looks quite a bit like autumn on the East Coast. It’s often overcast, dreary, and punctuated by light rain. Where, say, Boston has distinct winter season, with snow and ice ending up on the ground in copious amounts, Seattle rarely sees a snow day or has problems with ice, although they do happen every few years or so. So when the region has a wet autumn, wet winter, and wet spring, it’s easy to say it rains in Seattle all of the time.
The statistics also tell us something else. Over the course of a year, a Seattleite will only see the sun about 23% of the time. There’s some amount of precipitation one-hundred and fifty two days a year. However, Seattle only sees about 34 inches of rain a year, and the airport has reported an average of 37.49 inches of rain. Compare that to Tampa, Florida which receives 46.5 inches per year or New Orleans, which brings in around 62.7 inches of rain a year.
It’s further convoluted by the fact that many areas within driving distance of downtown receives more rain. Bremerton, WA, fifteen miles to the west and across the Puget Sound, gets 56 inches of rain a year, and the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park can get 142 inches per year. Seattle’s reputation for rain is believed to true due to circumstance. It is overcast a lot, the areas around it receive a fair amount of rain, so therefore Seattle must get a lot of rain.
But this isn’t true. Yes, it’s cloudy, and yes it’s wet, but the rain here is more of a mist than downpour. Seattle rarely sees a cloudburst, let alone a thunderstorm. Many residents pay attention to the type of rain, and then react accordingly. If it’s a light rain, many folk will go out without the urge to protect themselves from the weather. The locals can tell the tourists because the tourists bring the umbrellas.
The summer is a different story entirely, and the statistics bear this out.
This is one reason why people love living in Seattle. As dreary and wet the other eight months can be, the summer months are fantastic. It’s not too hot, and the rain is minimal.
** all data above culled from usclimatedata.com and http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov