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Where's the 'Dreariest' Place in America?

Gloomy cities with tons of rain and clouds include Seattle, Portland, and Buffalo.

Ted S. Warren/AP

Last week, meteorologist Brian Brettschneider created a map of Seattle's not-so-rainy climate that made a lot of people inexplicably mad.

Well, he's now produced another assessment of America's lousy weather, and it isn't going to make Northwesterners any less peeved. Using a formula that takes into account annual precipitation, number of days with precipitation, and cloudiness, Brettschneider has determined that the "dreariest" place in the United States to live is ... Seattle.

At least it has company. Seattle shares the dishonor of Nation's Gloomiest Suck-Pit with Buffalo, according to this index, with each city logging high dreary scores of 27. Coming in second are Pittsburgh and Portland, Oregon, followed by Cleveland, Cincinnati, Lexington, and Boston—ensuring Brettschneider will now be hated on both coasts.

Brian Brettschneider

"As expected, the Pacific Northwest coastal regions scored very high," he writes. "What might surprise many people are the high scores for places from West Virginia through Maine. Did you expect that?"

Some more findings: The least-bleak places, with scores of 3 or 4, hail from the sunny Southwest and California, such as Las Vegas, Phoenix, Bakersfield, and El Paso. And the one city with an exact-average score of 17 is, no big surprise, Omaha, Nebraska. (See where your hometown ranks on the full list below.)

Before people start hollering, it's worth noting that living in dreary 'burbs isn't the worst thing in the world. These zones of blah so happen to have low risks of destructive weather, like tornadoes and (on the West Coast, at least) hurricanes. There's also the fact that this is a highly subjective metric belonging to one person, who lives far away in Anchorage (dreary score: 21).

To his credit, Brettschneider admits there might be a bias at work:

This is right about the time where people in the Northeast are getting defensive. How can Buffalo be as dreary as Seattle or how can Pittsburgh be as dreary as Portland? Of course this methodology is completely arbitrary and far from perfect, but it is a start. Also keep in mind that neither temperature, wind, nor solar energy were used in the calculation. In my mind, a dreary day is wet and gray—therefore, this analysis only used variables that reflect those characteristics.

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.