Rain City My Ass!

It's an inevitable part of any conversation when meeting someone new. They ask where I live, I reply "just outside of Seattle". Then it happens. The comment about the rain. About the clouds. About the suicide rate. About seasonal affective disorder (doesn't it just make you S.A.D., pun intended).

Try as I might to convince them that it doesn't rain here in the summer, it falls on deaf ears. Nor do they ever believe me when I tell them that New York City gets more annual rainfall than Seattle. Fine, believe your stereotypes. One less person who might end up moving here if only they knew the truth. Harumph!

The truth is that several large counties in western Washington are in a serious state of drought. How serious? The mountain bike trails within a couple miles of my house are closed due to the danger of forest fires. Several very large fires burning elsewhere in the state are not showing much signs of stopping. Brush fires are starting to pop up near suburban neighborhoods. There's a complete burn ban for King, Kitsap, Mason, and Pierce counties, which just so happen to be the counties surrounding Puget Sound, which also just so happens to include a portion of the Olympic Peninsula. All of these areas rank right up there in people's minds when they think of "rainiest places in America".

How about some numbers. Not only to show how bad it is right now, but also to show how low the normal rainfall is too (the following taken from climate data at www.beautifulseattle.com)

July, 2006:

Precipitation for the month was less than 8 percent of normal at 0.06 inches compared to the normal 0.79 inches. There were eight days in July that had precipitation --- three days with measurable precipitation and five days with a trace of precipitation. The maximum 24-hour precipitation total was 0.03 inches on July 12. This July tied the record with 2003 for being the fourth-driest July on record.

August, 2006:

Precipitation for August 1 - 28 is running below normal at 0.01 inches compared to the normal 0.90 inches. There have been three days with precipitation --- one day with measurable precipitation and two days with a trace of precipitation. The maximum 24-hour precipitation total has been 0.01 inches on August 9. Seattle went twenty-six straight days this summer without any measurable amount of precipitation --- from July 14 through August 8. As of August 28, Seattle has only accumulated 0.07 inches of precipitation since June 17.

So let me repeat that last part. We received 0.07" of precipitation between June 17th and August 28th. We would normally receive close to 2" in that same time period, which is also very little, but to only receive 3.5% of that? That's insane. For comparison, the remnants of a typical tropical storm moving its way up the eastern seaboard typically drops anywhere from 4 to 8 inches of rain in a 48hr span. That would be 2x to 4x our average rainfall for a 2.5 month span in the summer.

So, yes, it's very very dry here. Our lawn is like hay (I refuse to water it), there's not a trail within a four hour drive that isn't Sahara-like in its conditions and dusty as hell. And this is not the first time. If memory serves, back in 2003 or 2004, we had 72 straight days without rain that summer too. The difference is that it's been much hotter this year. Both July and August averaged 2 degrees above normal. Which is to be expected considering the global climate change, but when compacted with ultra dry conditions, the extra heat makes the aridity all the more noticeable. And that much more dangerous in the forests.

Funny how those 43 straight days with measureable precipitation we had this past winter doesn't sound too bad right about now.

1 comment:

Criscipline said...

Interesting. We got 7.5" over past weekend. Yep, in three days. The neighbor's pool overflowed. It was kind of nice though. I've never seen so much rain before this past summer.

It somehow seemed "ok" to eat cheese popcorn and sleep a lot.