Brian Brettschneider

Most of the eastern U.S. is actually wetter.

Seattle just got bombed with righteous rain—Sunday was the third-wettest March day since 1894—and no doubt many people are shaking their heads and saying, "I could never live there."

But contrary to moist expectations, Seattle is far from the rainiest city in the United States. True, it can seem like nine months of the year are blah and gray, but the summers are beaming and fantastic. Even during the wet season(s) it's rare to have a ground-pounding deluge, as the precipitation tends to be as fine as a greenhouse keeper's plant spritzer.

Brian Brettschneider is a 44-year-old independent climatologist in Anchorage who's perplexed by the city's sodden notoriety. "Some places here in Alaska receive more rain in a month than Seattle receives in a year, so I have always found it curious that Seattle has this wet reputation," he says. "When I visited New York last week for the first time, I looked up their climate data and found them to be wetter than Seattle."

To correct any misconceptions floating around, Brettschneider went digging at the National Climatic Data Center and emerged with this simple, great map of places wetter than Seattle. Among them are most of the East and the South, as well as slices of the Pacific Northwest, southern Alaska, and Hawaii.

The differences in dampness are often vast. Seattle gets 37.5 inches of precipitation during an average year, a drop in the rain barrel compared to 126.7 inches in Hilo, Hawaii, and 141.3 inches in Ketchikan, Alaska. Many cities not associated with showers in America's consciousness trump Seattle. There are 49.7 inches in Atlanta, for instance, 49.8 in Houston, 44.7 in New York, and 41.5 in Washington, D.C.

True, Seattle does endure what can seem like endless stretches of trifling rain. "With cooler temperatures and infrequent thunderstorms, Seattle experiences many days of light, steady rain when compared to most places in the eastern half of the U.S.," says Brettschneider. But if you actually go out armed with an umbrella, you might be mocked by locals (the appropriate gear for such piddling precip' is a baseball hat).

Here's another map from Brettschneider addressing Seattle's large number of days (152) with precipitation. Red circles indicate spots with more days of falling H2O, blue ones less:

Brian Brettschneider

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.

  2. Design

    How I. M. Pei Shaped the Modern City

    The architect, who died yesterday at the age of 102, designed iconic modern buildings on prominent sites around the world. Here are some that delight and confound CityLab.

  3. Life

    Having a Library or Cafe Down the Block Could Change Your Life

    Living close to public amenities—from parks to grocery stores—increases trust, decreases loneliness, and restores faith in local government.

  4. Opponents of SB 50.
    Equity

    Despite Resistance, Cities Turn to Density to Tackle Housing Inequality

    Residential “upzoning” policies being adopted from Minneapolis to Seattle were once politically out of the question. Now they’re just politically fraught.

  5. Tourists walk along the High Line in Manhattan, New York City
    Life

    The Beauty Premium: How Urban Beauty Affects Cities’ Economic Growth

    A study finds that the more beautiful a city is, the more successful it is at attracting jobs and new residents, including highly educated and affluent ones.