That Famous Seattle Rain
All About Seattle Rainfall
Quick, what word comes to mind when you think of Seattle - rain? That's certainly one word that many people associate with Washington's largest city. But the Emerald City is not even among the top 10 rainiest cities in the United States based on the number of inches of rain that fall annually. So why is Seattle rainfall so notorious? It's all about the drizzle! But don't let that discourage you from visiting. Summer in this area is usually clear, dry and beautiful. In many ways, Seattle gets an undeserved bad rap about its rain. Come along and I'll tell you more.
Photo credit: Chris Vlacho
What?! Seattle Isn't Really One of the Nation's Rainiest Cities?
It's not even in the top 10 rainiest cities
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I remember fondly singing a Perry Como song about Seattle with a chorus that declared, "The bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle." At the time, I liked it because it was about my hometown area. But now I know why Perry Como thought Seattle had such great views - because when that deep blue finally breaks through the clouds and you get to see the sun and clear blue skies, it's a beautiful sight.
Seattle gets a bad rap about being a rainy city, but In a 2007 study of the nation's rainiest cities based on annual rainfall, Seattle ranked 41. That's right - 40 U.S. cities are rainier than Seattle! The Emerald City really doesn't get that many inches of rain. What it does get is an unusually high number of gray, drizzly days. According to the NOAA, Seattle is cloudy 226 days a year and partly cloudy an additional 82 days a year. Yikes! Do that math. It's not encouraging if you're the sun-worshipping type. The only good thing about Seattle's nonstop moisture is that walking a short distance through a light Seattle drizzle can often feel no more rainy than walking through a thick San Francisco fog. And if you're a visitor to Seattle and going during the summer, you probably won't even get to experience the gray, drizzly, wet weather the city is known for - summer is usually clear and dry.
In the contiguous 48 states, these are the top 10 rainiest cities, according to a 2007 study by Weatherbill.com.
1 - Mobile, AL
2 - Pensacola, FL
3 - New Orleans, LA
4 - West Palm Beach, FL
5 - Lafayette, LA
6 - Baton Rouge, LA
7 - Miami, FL
8 - Port Arthur, TX
9 - Tallahassee, FL
10 - Lake Charles, LA
Average Seattle Rainfall
The average monthly rainfall for Seattle is 3.18 inches
Seattle Rain by Month
Surprise! Seattle is actually pretty dry during the summer
Adding all the monthly averages below and dividing by 12 leads to a monthly average of 3.18 inches, but that number is deceptive because the winter months have much higher figures than the summer ones. Here's how it breaks out by month.
January - 5.24 inches
February - 4.09 inches
March - 3.92 inches
April - 2.75 inches
May - 2.03 inches
June - 1.55 inches
July - 0.93 inches
August - 1.16 inches
September - 1.61 inches
October - 3.24 inches
November - 5.67 inches
December - 6.06 inches
If You Can't Have Real Blue Skies... - Blue Sky umbrella keeps away that Seattle rain
Seattle may not be the rainiest city in the US, but with 226 days of cloudy skies, many of which are drizzly, an umbrella is a necessity in this city. I think the one shown here from the Museum of Modern Art would be my choice. These might be the only blue skies Seattlites see for days on end!
Where is Seattle?
Seattle is located in northwestern Washington, and is the state's largest city.
Seattle Rainfall Record
November 2006 was the rainiest month on record
According to the Office of the Washington State Climatologist, a record 15.63 inches of rain fell in Seattle on November 2006. This broke the previous record of 12.92 inches set in January 1953.
But when compared to other cities, Seattle still can't claim the title of rainiest city. Galveston, Texas owns bragging rights in that department - the city's rainiest month was September 1885, when it received 26.01 inches of rain.
Rainiest Cities in the World
The top 10 rainiest cities around the globe
Compared to the annual precipitation in the world's rainiest cities, Seattle is practically a desert. Look at how many inches of rain falls in these places:
Buenaventura, Colombia - 265.47 inches
Monrovia, Liberia - 202.01 inches
Pago Pago, American Samoa - 196.46 inches
Moulmein, Burma - 191.02 inches
Lae, Papua New Guinea - 182.87 inches
Baguio, Philippines - 180.04 inches
Sylhet, Bangladesh - 175.47 inches
Conakry, Guinea - 170.91 inches
Padang, Indonesia - 166.34 inches
Bogor, Indonesia - 166.33 inches
-source: FactMonster.com, Infoplease
Seattle Travel Books - If You're Planning to Visit...
Don't let horror stories of gray days and rainy skies discourage you from visiting Seattle. It's a beautiful city, and if you go in the summer, you're likely to have some great weather, as not much rain falls from June - September. Just be sure to get a good umbrella (just in case!) and a guidebook to plan some indoor activities in the event of rain.