...but doesn't it always rain there?

When I tell people that I live in Seattle, the first question that they ask is about the rainfall.  I'm not surprised by this; Hollywood and television have done a great job of cementing this "fact" into our shared picture of Seattle.  Movies like Sleepless in Seattle and television shows like Grey's Anatomy generally show outside scenery shots with moderate-to-heavy rain falling and the ground shimmering with deep puddles.

The reality is that it doesn't rain that much here.  Annually, Seattle receives about 36 inches of rain.  Compare this to the 50-60 inches that falls over most of the Southeastern US or the 40-50 inches that falls over the US Mid-Atlantic areas.  Seattlites joke that only tourists carry umbrellas.  While this isn't a hard-and-fast rule, it is true that most rainfall in Seattle can be tolerated with a light coat.

The majority of rain in Seattle tends to fall in the winter and spring.  In fact, between May and October, Seattle receives less than and inch-and-a-half of rain per month.  That being said, in the winter months it's not uncommon for there to be at least some rain every day (or almost every day) for a week at a time.  In fact, we broke a local records a few years ago when it rained (at least a little bit) every day for over 30 days.  I suspect that this is the main source of this legend.  What this legend doesn't mention is that we also get days like the one pictured below throughout our rainy season; I took this photo a few days ago from my office:


I've also read (although I'm struggling to find a reference) that this rumor was started by old Seattle curmudgeons who didn't want people to move to here after the hype of the World's Fair.  Lacking the marketing budget of the pro-Seattle campaign, they resorted to guerrilla tactics: rumors and fear-mongering.

That story might not be true, but the fact remains: Seattle's a beautiful city to live in.  And no, it doesn't rain all the time.


Adrienne said...

I read that in my favorite book on Seattle history: "Seattle and the Demon of Ambition: A Love Story". Check it out!

Albert said...

Yes we may not really experience that much total rainfall but that doesn't mean that the weather isn't crazy depressing at times, which is what I suspect people really want to know when they ask about the rain.

The real issue I think is the lack of sunlight. Most of Virginia sees over 100 days of sunlight per year. Seattle sees 58 on average according to this page. Also, at winter solstice, the days are a full hour shorter than what I'm used to in Richmond.

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