The Truth About the Weather and Rain in Seattle

Rainy Seattle
Arief Nugraha / Getty Images

Seattle has a reputation for rainy, dreary weather year-round, but while rain in Seattle is pretty commonplace, it's not quite as bad as people make it seem.

Autumns and winter in Seattle are typically pretty damp, but the spring and summer seasons see a lot of sunshine and dry days. In fact, some years the warm and dry weather starts as early as February, when you might even catch cherry blossoms blooming throughout the city's parks.

Whether you’ve lived here you’re entire life or are considering a trip to the Great Northwest, knowing a bit about how often it rains here can serve you well. At the very least, a few bits of rain trivia can remind you that the sun will eventually come out, and that when it does, there are few places with more beautiful weather.

Seattle Rain Trivia

Seattle in the rain at Public Market Center
Matt McGee
  • Days of rain: 156 days
  • Rainfall Total: 38 inches total annually
  • Days of sun: On average, about 71 days per year are clear, but many of the city's cloudy days feature what some call "sun breaks," so cloudy does not mean dreary or rainy necessarily.
  • Cloudy days: Mostly cloudy weather occurs on about 201 days out of the year, but this number goes up to 294 if you count partly-cloudy days. Most overcast weather occurs in the autumn and winter.
  • Cities that get more inches of total rainfall: New York City, New Orleans, and even Miami all get more inches of rain per year than Seattle. However, Seattle is known for its steady, gentle rain rather than big storms where many East Coast cities get huge bursts of rainfall all at once. Some folks from areas of the country who are used to major thunderstorms might not even consider our usually gentle rain "real" rain at all.
  • Who gets more rain—Seattle or Tacoma? Seattle gets a bit more rain at almost 38 inches per year, whereas Tacoma gets closer to 37 inches annually. Olympia to the south tops them both with 50 inches of annual precipitation.

Do People in Seattle Use Umbrellas?

This question will likely get you many different answers, but the fact is that Seattle-area natives use umbrellas far less than their counterparts in the rest of the country. There are no real statistics out there to support this statement—just look around on the street if you’re out on a rainy day. Sure, you’ll see a few umbrellas, but you’ll see a lot more hooded jackets.

The reason for this is up to interpretation. The most likely reason is that it rains often here, and it rains for long periods of time, especially during the fall and winter. Carrying a soggy umbrella around presents a constant problem. Parts of the Puget Sound, downtown Seattle included, often also get high winds in the fall and winter. Carrying an umbrella in the wind and rain is generally impossible and more inconvenient than useful. A hooded jacket allows your hands to stay free to combat the wind as needed.

It’s up for debate if not carrying an umbrella is a pride point for Seattleites or simply inconvenient. Do whatever feels right to you. No one will stare at you if you prefer an umbrella to a hooded jacket.

View of Elliott Bay Marina and the Olympic Mountains from atop the Space Needle
Angela M. Brown 

Why Does It Rain so Much in Seattle?

Seattle is right in the path of a weather pattern that routinely brings in a lot of moisture off of the Pacific Ocean. Water evaporates from the ocean and is carried by weather patterns up over the Olympic Mountains, where it cools and the water droplets condense into the rain we all know and love. The Olympics create a rain shadow, which is most commonly over areas near Sequim—a small town northeast of the mountains that gets only about 16 inches of rain a year. To an extent, this rain shadow benefits Seattle.

Yes, the city gets a lot of rain, but without the mountains, it would get even more.

View of Space Needle, Seattle Center Monorail and Exterior of the EMP Museum Building, Seattle, Washington, United States of America
Artie Photography (Artie Ng) / Getty Images

What to Do in Seattle When It Rains

Fortunately for when it does rain, there are plenty of things to do indoors. But rain doesn't stop Seattleites from getting out to do what they want to do. You'll see people out jogging in the rain, walking in the rain and generally going about their business. So don't be shy about putting on your rain jacket and taking a hike.

If you don't want to take a rain walk, try visiting Seattle's museums, which are especially great on free museum days! There are museums in town or nearby for all tastes. The biggest ones include Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Flight, MoPOP and MOHAI, but choose your own adventure.

If you're entertaining out of towners, the Seattle Underground Tour is covered for almost the entire tour. And whether you're local or from out of town, spending some time at Pike Place Market is always good for an hour or two out of the rain (and a good place to warm up with a cup of coffee or some fresh doughnuts from Daily Dozen Doughuts.

Seattle also has plenty of indoor shopping at places like Westlake Center downtown, Southcenter Mall just to the south and the Bellevue Collection to the east, which is large enough to keep you out of the rain for quite a while as it includes not one, but three shopping centers all connected by covered walkways and sky bridges.

You can also go see a show. Between the 5th Avenue Theater, Paramount, Showbox, ACT Theater and other venues large and small, there's always something on stage.

If you really just need to get the kids out of the house, look toward places like the Family Fun Center in Tukwila, the Seattle Aquarium, Pacific Science Center or explore the Volunteer Park Conservatory.

Was this page helpful?