Is this the most miserable spring in Seattle history?

Stormy skies over Seattle
Ominous clouds loom over Seattle on a recent spring day.

There are few things Americans agree on nowadays, but for Seattleites, tucked away in this sodden northwestern corner of the country, there’s one declaration that even the most dyed-in-the-wool folks among us would have trouble disagreeing with:

The weather this spring has been absolutely soul-sucking.

Day after day has dawned cold and damp, with an endless parade of winter-like systems barreling through the region, unleashing a trifecta of dark clouds, torrential rain and frigid ocean breezes that’s draped the city in a perpetual wet blanket since March.

Life in a wet blanket: The crummy Seattle spring of ‘22

With a cold trough of low pressure parked nearby, sun breaks have been few and fleeting this spring, with the rare partly-sunny day immediately followed by daylong rains and temperatures more befitting of February than May. And this is no exaggeration: after managing 59 degrees and nary a drop of rain last Wednesday, winter came roaring back on Thursday, with a damp overcast limiting the day’s high temperature to just 51 degrees—the normal high for Presidents’ Day, for crying out loud. Not surprisingly, that was more than enough to establish a new record for the chilliest maximum temperature ever observed on May 12—a feat that’s bound to happen when the high temperature comes in at, you know, a solid 15 degrees below average.

This past weekend, of course, brought more of the same, with another soggy, sub-60-degree-Sunday washing away memories of the pleasant day before, when afternoon sunshine managed to boost temperatures to—gasp!—seasonal norms for the first time this month. And lo and behold, despite some sunbreaks these next few days, a whopper of a storm is slated to arrive on Wednesday, complete with drenching rains, breezy winds and much-below normal temperatures.

This endless onslaught of winter-like gloom begs the question: Is this spring the crummiest spring Seattle has ever seen?

The short answer: No—but it’s the worst in a decade.

Spring of 1955 to Spring of 2022: Hold my beer

With 16 days remaining in meteorological spring—the period between March 1 and May 31—the average mean temperature (the high temperature plus the low temperature, divided by two) in Seattle clocks in at just 48.1 degrees. That’s a solid 3 degrees below normal, but is actually only good enough to make 13th place on the list of coldest springs at Sea-Tac Airport (which has served as Seattle’s official weather-reporting station since 1945).

Coldest springs in Seattle, by average temperature
Coldest meteorological springs (March 1-May 31) in Seattle, by average mean temperature. Records from Sea-Tac Airport, 1945-2022.

As the chart shows, the 1950s and 60s saw a handful of even chillier springs, topped by the miserable spring of 1955, when the average temperature was only 44.8 degrees—a full 3-plus degrees colder than this one. Yikes. The highlights—er, lowlights—of that spring included a low temperature of 11 degrees on March 4, 10 inches of snow in March, sub-freezing temperatures as late as April 28 and a May that ran 6.8 degrees below normal. This May, by contrast, is only running a mere 5.6 degrees below average. 😊

Seattle’s worst spring since 2011

Since the 1970s, however, Seattle springs have generally run warmer, with a few big exceptions around the turn of the century and in the early 2010s. The spring of 2011 was the last really cold spring in Puget Sound, with an average temperature half a degree cooler than this one—and significantly more rain.

From March 1-May 31, 2011, Seattle received a staggering 13.96 inches of rain—good for the third-wettest meteorological spring on record. In 2022, through May 15, we’ve received 8.97 inches—a hefty amount, but nowhere within striking distance of 2011. (There are still two weeks left in the month, and there is more rain in the forecast—but the totals won’t come anywhere close to 5 inches.)

The bottom line: 2022 has been an awful spring. But we’ve had worse.

Ultimately, as crummy as this spring has been, the springs of 2011 and 1955 show that the weather this time of year can be even worse. Yet 2022 has certainly been the most miserable spring in the past decade—and if you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of people who’ve moved to the region since then, it’s easily the gloomiest Seattle spring you’ve ever experienced.


  1. Hahaha! I’m old and I can say with painful assurance that this weather at this time of year was my entire childhood and the main reason I fled to Southern CA as soon as I was old enough to act on my own. Left town with $57 and 2 suitcases. Didn’t return for 7 years, and only then because I thought my return would be short. Turned out it wasn’t & I’ve made peace with the weather now, but compared to year after year after year, back when, this spring is not that unusual.

  2. The “gloomiest” winter-spring I think was 1999? Sometime around then when we didn’t have sun for around 6 months straight or something crazy like that. It was probably warmer though. Of course that’s just a semantic argument around if “gloomy” means cold or cloudy. I think its worse when its just dark and grey for months at a time. Cold and sunny is much better.

    (I think that was after some record-breaking string of sunny weather in the summer of 1998, it was a highly bipolar year)

    On the topic of temperature though it’d be interesting to see if the temperatures correlated with the PDO cycle (which looks like it had a negative bias from 1945 to 1980 or so).

  3. This precipitation is good for the environment in every way. I welcome it. While other regions are drought or heat stricken we are enjoying lush moderate spring that our summer will thank us for.

  4. I’m in Portland which has been similar, and I haven’t found it miserable at all: I’ve found it beautiful. And as others have said, the extra precip has been great for the environment. It’s all about the mindset, and getting past the binary of ‘sunny good, rainy bad.’

  5. Why do these articles exist? Who cares what happened in 1955. It bears ZERO relevance on the situation today (5-26-22). You know what else 1955 had? Affordable housing, cars, good jobs, no STUPID pandemic, stable political situation; yeah okay, Cold War issues aside. See, apples to oranges.

    This has definitely been the worst spring in my 45 years of living in WA. Central and Eastern Washington haven’t been as rainy, but gloomy? Yeah, like one day of sun a week basically. Have broken 70 twice I think, not even 80. Memorial Day is usually pleasant and sunny, but not this year. It has decided that we need to be stuck in late-March all year.

    There is a reason why having distinct seasons are important. You know, crop growers? I live next to a hay field and it looks terrible. Not growing, beaten down, in sad shape. Half the trees are just now blooming (about 2 months late). No folks, this is bad for the local climate. And that moisture is not helping out Eastern Washington that much, only Western Washington. Overkill comes to mind. And finally, someone mentioned SoCal which is funny as I am moving there July. What you don’t get in green, you make up for with more sunshine.

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