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Does it Always Rain in Seattle?

Does it Always Rain in Seattle?

Post last updated April 13, 2023

Seattle is so famous for its rain, but is this reputation well-earned? The truth is, Seattle’s climate experiences major shifts throughout the year, and whether or not the city is exceptionally rainy or not depends on when you’re visiting.

Let’s take a deep look at whether it actually always rains in Seattle. We’ll dive into Seattle’s average annual rainfall versus other U.S. cities, how much it rains in Seattle per year, and what months see the most and least rainfall. Let’s get started!

Does it Really Always Rain in Seattle?

No, it doesn’t always rain in Seattle. The city sees less total rain (39.3 inches per year) but has more rainy days (156 days) than most major cities. So, while Seattle’s reputation as a rainy city is well-earned, the city has both dry and wet months. 

Now, you might be wondering just how both of those things – lots of rainy days but low total rainfall – can be true at the same time. To explain, let’s first take a look at the geography of the area.  

Seattle is surrounded on both sides by water.  Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean, on the West, and the nearly 22-mile-long Lake Washington on the East.  It is one of the many cities claiming to be built on seven hills, with elevation varying from sea level to 520 feet above sea level.  Further in each direction, Seattle is surrounded by two mountain ranges, the Olympic Mountains of the Olympic Peninsula to the West.  To the East of Seattle, you’ll find the Cascade Mountain range, which cuts the state in half as it runs from Canada to Northern California.

As you’ll soon see – the city is nestled between these two mountain ranges and water protects Seattle from extreme climate events. It moderates temperature extremes and reduces the ferocity of storms coming in from the Pacific Ocean that would otherwise drop more rainfall on the city.

What is Seattle’s Annual Rainfall?

Seattle receives just over 39 inches of rainfall on average per year.  If that doesn’t seem very high to you, it’s because it’s not!  Many other major metropolitan areas receive more average rainfall than Seattle does.  Take a look at how it compares:

Seattle Average Rainfall
Seattle sees 39 inches of rain per year, less than most major American cities

On an average year, Seattle receives less than ⅔ the average rainfall of Miami and New Orleans.  Houston, Atlanta, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, and Kansas City all have greater average annual rainfall.

How Does Seattle’s Rain Compare to Other Cities?

So, where did Seattle’s reputation as being such a rainy city come from?  It’s more about the number of rainy days rather than the amount of rain. It rains an average of 156 days per year in Seattle.  Take a look at how Seattle compares to those same cities when we compare the average number of rainy days and that reputation suddenly makes sense.

Seattle Days with Precipitation
Seattle averages 156 days with rainfall

Seattle is suddenly at the top of the list! Portland is nearly identical, averaging 155 days per year with measurable precipitation.  Miami is next on the list, averaging 141 days per year.

How Does Seattle Have So Many Rainy Days and So Little Average Rain?

Seattle’s rain primarily comes from stratus clouds, which are thin and flat clouds that tend to carry very little, if any, precipitation.  Heavy rains come from cumulonimbus clouds, which are also responsible for thunder.  These clouds are so rare in Seattle, the city averages just seven days of thunder per year. 

Rain is often referred to in Seattle by words like ‘drizzle’ and ‘mist.’  This is also why so many Seattlites don’t even own an umbrella!  Many locals take not using an umbrella as an act to be proud of, so much so that the city’s last and only dedicated umbrella store closed in 2017.  It’s more common to own a jacket with a hood for rainy days.

Why is Seattle’s Climate So Unique?

Seattle is nestled between the Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, the Hoh Rainforest to the West, and the Cascade Mountain range and the dry plains of Eastern Washington to the East.  These mountain ranges leave Seattle well protected.  As storms come in from the Pacific, the height of the Olympic Mountains causes storms to lose much of their precipitation in the Hoh Rainforest before the storms can reach Seattle.  The Cascade Mountains shield the area from the dry and extreme temperature air of the continental plains.  

Believe it or not, some sources consider Seattle to have a Mediterranean climate!  Although others consider it a Marine climate like that of Northwestern Europe.  The most accurate classification seems to be a dual climate zone with Mediterranean summers and Marine winters.

When You Can Avoid the Rain in Seattle

If that Mediterranean climate sounds good to you, plan your trip to Seattle in the summer.  The dry season in Seattle is from mid-June through mid-September.  During that time, the area averages under one inch of rain a month!  This chart clearly shows when the dry time of year is!

Seattle Rainfall By Month
Seattle sees anywhere from less than an inch to more than 6 inches of rain per month

November is clearly the rainiest month, with an average of 6.3 inches of rain in an average year!  July is the least rainy month, averaging only 0.6 inches of rain.  That’s less than 10% of November’s precipitation!

Do note though, in recent summers it’s become increasingly common for wildfires to create air quality issues towards the end of summer.  If you have certain health conditions or are particularly affected by smoke, you may want to plan accordingly.

So Does It Really Always Rain in Seattle?

October through May, yes, it does rain in Seattle on a lot of days.  However, it will most likely rain a very small amount.  The rain doesn’t keep most locals from enjoying outdoor activities and it doesn’t have to keep you from enjoying them either!

How often does it rain in Seattle?

On average, it rains 43% of days in Seattle. That's 156 rainy days per year, which is higher than other major cities in the United States. However, the total rainfall of Seattle is just 39.3 inches per year, which is lower than cities like Chicago, New York, and Miami. Seattle is generally more drizzly, with days of rainfall averaging .25 inches of rain. By comparison, the average day with rainfall in Miami sees .47 inches of rain.

What's the average rainfall in Seattle Washington?

The average rainfall in Seattle Washington is 39.3 inches per year. The rainfall in the city changes dramatically by season. June to September can see less than an inch of rainfall per month while November through January see about six inches of rain and significantly more cloud cover.

How many rainy does does Seattle have per year?

Seattle has an average of 156 rainy days per year. That's about the same as Portland but higher than other major American cities.

Ashleigh on ferry Island hopping.

Hi, I'm Ashleigh! Welcome to Seattle Travel, my little piece of beautiful PNW. This is home and I'm here to share all my experiences so visitors and locals alike can find the best experiences this part of the country has to offer. I started Seattle Travel in 2012 as a way to journal my experiences and over the years have been encouraged by family and friends to open up my adventures to everyone. I actively seek out the best food, activities, and day trips and give you a local perspective.  The Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful areas in the world and my goal is to let you explore it to the fullest. 


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