Seattle Rainy Season: Essential Tips for Navigating the Wet Months

Seattle, often known for its picturesque landscapes and vibrant culture, is also known for its famously wet weather. While the city may not hold the record for the most rainfall in the United States, it certainly has its share of rainy days, especially during its rainy season. This season, lasting from October to March, receives about 75% of the city’s annual rainfall. November, December, and January are particularly wet, with about 18 inches of rain combined.

Though precipitation is frequent during each Seattle rainy season, the city still has much to offer, and experiencing the weather first-hand often leads to a better understanding of its role in shaping the city’s character. Even on rainy days, Seattle is full of indoor and outdoor activities that showcase its unique atmosphere. During this time, the city’s lush greenery and beautiful waterfront views truly come alive.

While the rainy season may not be everyone’s favorite time to visit Seattle, it’s essential to recognize the role this characteristic climate plays in the life and culture of the city. By embracing the rain and exploring Seattle’s diverse offerings, visitors can truly appreciate the city’s beauty, transforming a potentially dreary season into an unforgettable experience.

Seattle Rainy Season Overview

The Climate of Seattle

Seattle, often called “Rain City,” is known for its wet and cloudy weather due to its location west of the Olympic Mountain range. The city experiences a moderate oceanic climate, characterized by mild summers and cool, wet winters. While precipitation is fairly consistent throughout the year, the heaviest rainfall occurs during the winter months.

The average monthly rainfall in Seattle is as follows:

  • January: 5.14 inches
  • February: 3.54 inches
  • March: 3.86 inches
  • April: 2.98inches
  • May: 2.6 inches
  • June: 1.57 inches
  • July: 0.78 inches
  • August: 1 inches
  • September: 1.74 inches
  • October: 3.65 inches
  • November: 5.85 inches
  • December: 5.55 inches

During the summer months, the Olympic Mountains create a rain shadow effect, diverting moisture away from Seattle and resulting in less rainfall and more sunshine.

Rainy Season Timeline

The rainy season in Seattle typically lasts from October through March, with November and December being the wettest months on average. Throughout the rainy season, the city sees an increased number of rainy days, with more than 75% of annual precipitation occurring during this period.

During these months, Seattle residents can expect overcast skies and consistent rainfall, but rarely heavy downpours or stormy weather. The mild temperatures and wet conditions contribute to the lush green landscapes of the Pacific Northwest, making the city a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Despite its reputation for rain, Seattle does enjoy periods of sunshine and drier conditions throughout the year, particularly during the summer months of July and August. The city’s proximity to the Olympic Mountain range and beautiful surrounding nature make it a thriving hub for both indoor and outdoor activities and a unique destination for those seeking a balance between urban life and natural beauty.

Rainfall and Temperature Patterns

Average Monthly Rainfall and Temperature

Seattle experiences a temperate maritime climate characterized by mild temperatures and the frequent presence of precipitation. The city generally observes more rainy days and less overall precipitation when compared to other major cities in the United States.

MonthTotal Precipitation Normal (inches)Average Max Temperature Normal (°F)Average Min Temperature Normal (°F)Mean Avg Temperature Normal (°F)Days With Rain
Monthly Climate Normals for Seattle, WA 1991-2020; Source: NOAA

Seattle’s Wettest and Driest Months

Seattle’s wettest month is typically November, with an average of 5.85 inches of rain. Conversely, the driest month is July, with an average of only 0.78 inches of rain. Summer months (June to August) tend to be warmer and drier, whereas fall and winter months (October to January) usually bring more precipitation and cooler temperatures.

Comparing Seattle to Other U.S. Cities

When comparing Seattle’s annual rainfall to other major U.S. cities, it’s important to note that Seattle does not receive the highest amount of total precipitation. For example:

  • Miami: 61.9 inches
  • New Orleans: 62.7 inches
  • Chicago: 37.8 inches
  • East Coast cities, such as New York and Boston, also receive similar or higher annual rainfall totals compared to Seattle.

However, Seattle has more rainy days than these cities, and its rainfall is typically spread out over a longer rainy season. Portland, another city in the Pacific Northwest, shares similar rainfall and temperature patterns with Seattle.

How Seattle’s Rain Affects Daily Life

Activities to Enjoy During the Rainy Season

Seattle’s rainy season, which lasts from October to March, often has residents and visitors seeking indoor activities. One popular option is exploring Seattle’s museums. Art enthusiasts can visit the Seattle Art Museum, while history buffs can explore the Museum of History & Industry. Additionally, science-minded individuals can have an educational day at the Pacific Science Center.

For those seeking a unique experience, Pioneer Square’s Underground Tour offers a fascinating glimpse into Seattle’s history. The guided tour takes visitors beneath the city streets, where they can explore hidden subterranean passages that were once the main roadways and storefronts of old Seattle.

Rainy days in Seattle are also perfect for taking a leisurely rain walk, where one can enjoy the soothing sound of raindrops and the sight of glistening streets. It is essential to dress appropriately for these wet outdoor excursions, with a high-quality rain jacket and fleece for warmth and comfort.

Preparing for Rainy Days

Seattle residents are well-accustomed to their city’s rainy climate, and as such, they develop routines and habits to stay safe and comfortable throughout the season. A few key preparations include:

  • Rain gear: A sturdy rain jacket, waterproof shoes, and an umbrella are essential items for any Seattleite or visitor to have during the rainy season.
  • Storm drains: To help reduce neighborhood flooding, residents are encouraged to clear storm drains of leaves and debris, using rakes or shovels instead of their hands for safety.
  • Weather monitoring: Keeping an eye on local weather reports can help Seattle residents plan accordingly for potential thunderstorms or snowfall during the season. An average of 5.8 inches (147mm) of rain accumulates in December and February, with occasional snowfall up to 1.7 inches (43mm).
  • Humidity: With an average humidity level of 79% during the rainy season, it’s important to have proper indoor air circulation, such as dehumidifiers, to prevent mold growth and maintain healthy indoor air quality.

By understanding Seattle’s unique climate and preparing for the city’s rainy season, residents and visitors alike can still fully enjoy the city’s many offerings, even in the midst of relentless showers.

Tips for Visiting Seattle During the Rainy Season

Best Time to Visit

While the Emerald City is known for its rainy weather, there are certain months that offer a more comfortable experience for visitors. May and June are great times to visit Seattle, with mostly sunny weather and fewer rainy days. However, if you are specifically looking to experience Seattle’s famous rain, the mid-winter months of November through February bring the most precipitation. December and February may even see some snowfall. During these months, you can expect an average humidity of 79% and only about two hours of sunshine per day.

Packing Tips

When visiting Seattle during the rainy months, it’s important to pack for the varying weather conditions. Here are some essential items to include in your suitcase:

  • Layers: Since temperatures can fluctuate throughout the day, it’s best to pack clothing that can be easily layered. Expect high temperatures in the 50s in winter, with cooler temperatures in the mornings and evenings.
  • Rain gear: A waterproof jacket or umbrella is necessary during Seattle’s rainy season, as precipitation can occur at any time.
  • Footwear: Wear comfortable, waterproof shoes to keep your feet dry while exploring the city.

Some additional items to consider packing:

  • Warm clothing: Pack hats, scarves, and gloves for chillier days, especially if you’re traveling in December or February when snow is possible.
  • Extra socks: Having dry socks to change into after a day of exploring can be a lifesaver.
  • A reusable water bottle: Stay hydrated and environmentally conscious while traveling.

By following these tips and preparing accordingly, you can have an enjoyable and memorable trip to Seattle during its rainy season.

Seattle’s Unique Rain Geography

Seattle Rainy Season: Essential Tips for Navigating the Wet Months
Olympic Mountains Casting a Shadow Over Seattle, WA

Rain Shadow Effect

The Olympic Mountains, located in Western Washington, play a significant role in Seattle’s rain patterns. The rain shadow effect occurs when moist air from the Pacific Ocean travels eastward, encountering the mountains. As the air rises, it cools and condenses, creating precipitation on the western slopes. The descending air on the eastern side is much drier, creating a “rain shadow” in the area, including the Puget Sound region.

Puget Sound Region

The Puget Sound region, including Seattle, experiences unique rainfall patterns greatly influenced by Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains. Western Washington sees the most rainfall due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the rain shadow effect, with the wettest months being January, November, and December.

Pacific Ocean Influence

Seattle Rainy Season: Essential Tips for Navigating the Wet Months

The Pacific Ocean’s influence on the rainfall in Seattle is significant. Moisture-laden air from the ocean interacts with the region’s mountainous terrain, which contributes to the diverse and unique rain patterns in and around Seattle. The rainy season in Seattle typically lasts from October to March, with November being the wettest month.

The rain in Seattle can be categorized into six types: drizzle, mist, sprinkles, normal rain, downpours, and thunderstorms. These different rain types contribute to the overall reputation of Seattle as a rainy city. However, the rainy season is well-balanced with the dry season, which occurs in the summer months. July and August experience the least amount of rainfall, making Seattle a city that experiences a wide range of weather patterns due to its geography and Pacific Ocean influence.

About the author

My name is April, and I’m a Seattle-based writer, traveler, and foodie. I started this travel guide blog to share my passion for Seattle with fellow travelers and locals alike.

Whether you’re looking for the best coffee shops, the trendiest restaurants, or the most scenic hiking trails, I’ve got you covered.

When I’m not writing or exploring Seattle, you can find me watching movies with my husband, reading, or gardening with my dog in the backyard.

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