Monday, February 1, 2016

Rainless in Seattle

  Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman don't need umbrellas as much as you think. Seattle is known for many things: the Space Needle,  Grey's Anatomy, Mount Rainier, Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, the Seahawks, and...rain. Most people who don't live in Seattle think that Seattlelites are miserable because they never get any sun. Well, they're pointing fingers at the wrong city. It actually rains in Seattle less than you think.
     According to Current Results, the average precipitation for Seattle is 37.7 inches per year. Boston on the other hand receives 43.8, Atlanta sees 49.7, Houston 49.8, New York City sees an average of 49.9, Miami sees 61.9, New Orleans with 62.7, and Portland, Seattle's sibling down south, actually sees 43.5. Saint Louis on average clocks in 41. 
     So why does Seattle always get rained on when they're dryer than ciudads such as New York City and Miami? Well it doesn't help that Seattle is cloudy for over 200 days a year. While clouds don't equal rain, in our minds when we see grey overcast everywhere, we can't help but think it's been raining or is going to rain. With that said, Seattle has sunny days only 43 percent of the year. Portland sees 48 percent, New Orleans 53 percent, Saint Louis 57 percent, New York City sees 58 percent, Atlanta 60 percent, and Miami 70 percent, 
     So why does it rain so much more in Miami, yet Miami gets so much more Sun? Well, Miami is in a tropical climate. A lot of the rain that Miami sees comes in the form of thunderstorms and heavy showers, which can, and usually do, dissipate a lot quicker. We've seen it rain all day long, but when was the last time you saw even a 2-hour thunderstorm? While it can rain all day in a city like Seattle, Miami  is more likely to wake up with Sun, have an afternoon thunderstorm, then go into the South Beach evening with clear sky.
     The reason Seattle sees so much grey weather is because of its location. Being wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains, plus the jet stream and Puget Sound, and being closer to the colder Canadian air gives Seattle a marine climate. Moisture and clouds that race towards Seattle from the Pacific and Puget rain over the city, but struggle to make their way over the tall Cascades. Hot air is able to hold moisture better than cold, but as those clouds rise to get over the Cascades, they expand. As the air gets colder, the molecules slow, the cloud becomes heavier, and it cools. The cooler and denser the cloud, the harder it is to hold moisture and get out of Seattle's way. The jet stream passing by also helps mild conditions. 
     This also means it doesn't get blazing hot in Seattle. The average Summer temperature in Seattle? 73 degrees (22.7 C)...IT'S SO HOT. Seattle has only seen 2 days ever over 100 degrees (37.7 C), according to Current Results. Phoenix sees an average of 80...a year. Hmm, it's pretty fitting that Phoenix is named after a bird that's on fire.
     Seattle could be Goldilocks of American cities because the climate, just like the porridge, is just right (if you haven't been spoiled with LA or Miami). It doesn't get too hot, nor does it get too cold. According to The Weather Channel, the average January and February high is 47 degrees. That's manageable I guess. It could be worse. March then quickly rises to 55 (12.7 C).  Seattle also sees an average of 7 thunderstorms per year, versus New York's 25 and Miami's 80. Seattle's weather is clearly less bipolar than other major US cities.
     So if you want to visit Seattle, but haven't because you don't own a rain jacket, don't worry, you might not need it.

*photos from Michael Holden, Back Country Coalition, Wallpaper Cave, Topozone. *citations: Weather Whys, Weather Channel, Current Results, Nerd Wallet, USA Today, Wikipedia.

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