“Hope you like rain!”: The climatological facts about Seattle

July 26, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Do you know what is the appropriate thing to say when you find that someone is moving to Seattle? I’ll give you a hint — it’s not “Hope you like rain!” As it happens, I do love love love rainy days — but Seattle is not the rain capital of the world (or even the US) that everybody thinks it is. From Wikipedia:

At 37.1 inches (942 mm)[80], [Seattle] receives less precipitation than New York, Atlanta, Houston, and most cities of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Seattle was also not listed in a study that revealed the 10 rainiest cities in the continental United States.[81] … Thunderstorms occur only occasionally. Seattle reports thunder on just seven days per year … For comparison Fort Myers, Florida reports thunder on 93 days per year. Kansas City reports 52 ‘thunder days’ and New York City reports 25.

Don’t get me wrong — Seattle does have more rain than Austin. But as a rain-lover this is just fine with me. Whenever I see a glimmering 20% chance of showers on the weather forecast, I watch the radar all day in hopes that whatever little baby shower is floating around will float right over here to our house and then hang out for a while. (This happens wayyy less than 20% of the time. I think there must be some geographic/climatic condition that makes our particular spot receive unusually little rain.)

Another less popular but still frequent response we often get is, “Hope you like snow!” This is also not the right answer. Due to Seattle’s proximity to the ocean, the weather actually stays pretty temperate despite its northern latitude. In fact, Seattle gets an average of only 13 inches of snow per year. Compare this with Cleveland’s 56.9 inches, New York City’s 28.4, and Lubbock’s 10.2. In fact, Seattle gets the same amount of snow annually as Richmond, Virginia — not exactly the snow capital of the world. (You can check the annual snowfall for a bunch of US cities at the NOAA’s site here.)

If you compare Seattle to Austin, here’s what you get:

Two charts displaying weather statistics for Austin and SeattleYou can see that Seattle is only a little bit colder in the winter but way less hot in the summer (and there is way more rain). If you want to see these charts on Wikipedia, here are Seattle’s, Austin’s and a page explaining how to read this kind of chart. Although I’m sure I’ll be a bit colder in the winter, I’m generally pretty happy about the upcoming change in climate.

So! What is the correct response when someone says, “We’re moving to Seattle”? It’s “Congratulations!” :D



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  1. If you are west of Seattle, there’s a little rain. My grandmothers lawn is brown right now. So your information is correct, We don’t get a lot of rain. We’re just known to get more then other cities.

  2. Seattle gets less rain than Austin from May through September

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