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That Famous Seattle Rain

Updated on April 6, 2013

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

MoMA Sky Umbrella, Collapsible
MoMA Sky Umbrella, Collapsible

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.

A markerseattle -
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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.

photo credit:MLBbrad

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.

Ever Experienced the Famous Seattle Rain?

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    • profile image

      JULpiala 4 years ago

      Nice.

    • mltnpnw profile image

      mltnpnw 4 years ago

      @mltnpnw: I meant to say your lens.

    • mltnpnw profile image

      mltnpnw 4 years ago

      Yep, this is the city I live in. Love it and you lens.

    • SusanRDavis profile image

      Susan R. Davis 4 years ago from Vancouver

      Yep. Not far away. Portland is similar. And you are right about the summers. This summer we had almost NO rain for something like 79 days in a row from June through September. The little drizzles don't matter much. It's that darn "gray" that is so hard to take.

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 4 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Our weather on Vancouver Island is quite similar to Seattle. We had a really nice summer this year.

    • Northwestphotos profile image

      Northwestphotos 5 years ago

      Shhh! Don't let everybody know how nice it is out here! Nice lens!

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 6 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @PNWtravels: Came by again to let you know that I've featured this lens on my new visit Seattle, Washington lens.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 7 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Great Seattle lens. As a Seattle native, I especially enjoyed your listing of some of the less familiar "Things to Do".

    • profile image

      motorpurrr 8 years ago

      Yay! A Seattle lens. How about that weather yesterday. Sunday March 8. Rain, hail, wind, hail, snow, sun fallowed by hail. Kept me away for the drive. I'm just grateful that we have the rain, unlike parts of Cal.

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      Welcome to the Totally Awesome Lenses Group.

      Lizzy