Friday, May 31, 2024

Is it really as rainy as they say?

Washington State has a damp reputation for soggy weather. Often the local Chamber of Commerce will chime in about how we get less rain than most cities in the USA east of the Rockies. This is true and for the nation as a whole we really do not get much in the way of precipitation. Those people originating from a state west of the Rockies will find us much wetter than they are. 

But even when we compare our Western Washington cities to Northern California, we are not that much higher on rainfall than they are, particularly within 50 miles of the ocean. The real issue is that we tend to have a lot more cloudy days than most of the western US. We however are no worse off than states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York on the sunshine scale.

Anchorage, AK; Portland, OR; Buffalo, NY; Pittsburgh, PA; and Cleveland, OH round out the top five "gloomiest" cities in America in a climate survey done by Seattle and Spokane were 6th and 7th on that list.

So cloud cover is a thing and Washington gets allot of cloudy days. But often coastal areas in California are overlooked in the "gloomy" category despite having a heavy marine layer that tends to make for foggy and cool weather in the summertime. 

But what about actual rainfall? How rainy is it really. Typically rainfall is measured two ways by climatologists. Inches or Millimeters of rain measured in a rain gauge and number of days with measurable precipitation. When measuring actual rainfall volume we are lower than the national average, but when measured by number of days with rain, we are near the top. I created two lists below ranking Washington cities against other notable locales around the country for both rainfall and days of rain.

Here are the same four charts with a list of several cities from each region of the country. Each chart ranks the cities by a different metric starting with annual days of precipitation, then annual rainfall in inches, then the percentage of sunshine, then annual snowfall.

Here we rank near the bottom with 157 days on average with measurable precipitation. It should be noted that we get a lot of days with light drizzle that is just barely enough to register in a rain gauge.

Here we are right in the middle with our paltry 36.9 inches of annual precipitation. It should be noted that in fairness, the Portland International Airport is the official NWS reporting station and it is notably drier than the surrounding area. Our real precipitation is between 40-50 inches depending on location.

Sunny days are hard to find in the winter months and it takes a toll on our annual numbers. But sunshine is in abundance from mid June through mid September. Summertime is sunny almost every day and little to no rain at all.

Snowfall is another category we do well in unless you like snow. Our 6.5 inches a year average is pretty tame even for those who hate the snow. 

When I look at the locations people are moving to I can't help but notice our weather is better than a lot of them overall. South Carolina and Tennessee are popular spots but those places have hot and sticky summers. Tennessee doesn't get quite a much snow as we do but they get three shower a day humidity in the summer. The Carolinas have those pesky hurricanes.

So in closing, yes it is as rainy as they say but not as rainy as you think.

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