Interestingly, it seems that there is some precipitation in Seattle for about 42% (152 days) of the year, but, at least for 2019, that’s only a few days more than cities like New York (148 days). Places like Hilo, Hawaii racked up an impressive 268 wet days last year.
So, if precipitation doesn’t fall more heavily or much more frequently over Seattle, why does it have such a soggy reputation?
According to Dr. Nick Bond and Karin Bumbaco (the State Climatologist and Assistant State Climatologist at the University of Washington, respectively) there could be several factors to blame. First, if you’re used to the summer rain and winter snow of east coast cities, Seattle’s wet winters and dry summers may seem unusual. Particularly because the wet seasons can be very wet (I’m looking at you, 30 days of rain in January 2020).
Bumbaco continues that our lack of snow may also be to blame. “I think the fact that lowland snow is uncommon here in comparison to much of the rest of the country (due to our mild winter temperatures) plays into the stereotype as well since our winter precipitation falls as rain.” Perhaps when your precipitation falls as snow, it doesn’t feel as wet and is thus less notable than when it falls as rain?
Bond also pointed out another feature of Seattle’s wet season: the seemingly never-ending clouds. “After it has rained every day for an extended period, and the sky has been blanketed by clouds for seeming weeks, many newbies [to Seattle] might expect the sun is bound to appear again soon but guess again”. The clouds here may not always predict precipitation, but maybe their ubiquity makes it feel like we’re always on the precipice of a storm.
At the end of the day, both seem to agree that the mistiness is a part of life in Seattle, even with its overblown reputation. In Bond’s words “a truly enlightened Pacific Northwesterner essentially ignores the rain”. So if you make your way to the Emerald City and want to blend in like a true local, leave the umbrella at home.