7/22/2014

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Stop the presses: It didn't rain that much during Seattle's winter

Stop the presses: It didn't rain that much during Seattle's winter
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Here is a fun fact: The actual winter of 2012-13 will go down as among the driest on record.

Don't believe me? I don't blame you. It certainly didn't set any records for lack of frequency of rain. From Jan. 1 to March 31, Seattle managed to get measurable rain on 50 of the 90 days -- good for 56%. But it just didn't amount to anything much in the rain gauges.

How little? Seattle (Sea-Tac) had 8.48 inches of rain over that Jan. 1-March 31 time frame. That's a whopping 4.24 inches below normal. In fact, it was the sixth driest "winter" at Sea-Tac Airport:

Driest Jan. 1 through March 31 at Sea-Tac Airport:

  1. 1985: 5.77"
  2. 1977: 7.15"
  3. 2001: 7.50"
  4. 1962: 7.58"
  5. 1973: 7.80"
  6. 2013: 8.48"

But you know what? Maybe we were due. Because ironically, Seattle's dry stretch began abruptly at the conclusion of a very wet stretch that ended in December -- that would be the sixth wettest autumn at Sea-Tac Airport:

Wettest Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 at Sea-Tac Airport:

  1. 1955: 25.06"
  2. 2006: 24.48"
  3. 1998: 24.08"
  4. 1950: 22.33"
  5. 1996: 21.97"
  6. 2012: 21.84"

Combine the two and you find that Seattle is pretty close to normal from October 1 - March 31 -- we have 30.32" in the gauge versus 28.12" as normal.

This relative normalcy can be found in the mountain snowpack, which is running just a little below average, but not terribly so, averaging about 85-99 percent of normal.

CLIMATOLOGICAL SNOWDEPTH INFORMATION
NORTHWEST WEATHER AND AVALANCHE CENTER SEATTLE WASHINGTON
DAY  1  MONTH  4  YEAR  2013 

DATA IN INCHES, -99 DENOTES MISSING DATA

            CURRENT  CLIMATE  PER CENT   LAST  THRU 2012  THRU 2012
            DEPTH    AVERAGE  OF NORMAL  YEAR  MAX/YEAR   MIN/YEAR

HURRICANE   106      110       96        167   252/1999    42/2005
MT BAKER    174      175       99        267   311/1999    72/1934
STEVENS      96      102       94        147   192/1956    24/1941
SNOQUALMIE   74       86       86        134   170/1956     2/1992
STAMPEDE     78      100       78        122   183/1956    17/1992
MISSION      37       48       77         74    86/1983    20/1973
CRYSTAL      69       73       95        117   144/1999    16/1981
PARADISE    167      176       95        228   327/1956    66/1941
WHITE PASS   46       57       81        106   110/1997     0/1992
TIMBERLINE  146      165       88        206   300/1999    57/1981
MEADOWS     105      130       81        173   199/2008    49/2005

One place where we failed miserably to get anywhere close to normal was in the lowland snow department. Seattle finished up with a very paltry 0.6" of measurable snow, that fell on one December day for a few hours in the dead of night. (But at least we did get video proof that it happened!)

However, that brief dusting was enough to keep the autumn/winter of 2012-13 from going down in the record books. Technically, it was only the 9th least-snowiest winter at Sea-Tac Airport, coming in behind the only completely snowless winter on record of 1991-92, seven years that had just a Trace of snow, and the winter of 1983-84 where they got 0.3". (I'll at least bet that might have fallen during the daylight hours.)

(Note that the snows of March 21-22 on the edges of the Puget Sound region never hit the airport. In fact, good luck deducing it even snowed in the region as the climate page shows the high was 49 with no rainfall reported.)

Normally in a non El Nino/La Nina winter as this ended up, we would have expected something better in the snow department but perhaps with this equal balance sort of kick Mother Nature is on, this sets us up for the 9th snowiest winter next year :)

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