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).
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.