Does It Snow In Seattle?

With its rainy reputation, you may wonder if the Emerald City ever sees snow. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Yes, it does snow in Seattle, although not nearly as much as many other cities at similar latitudes. The city averages about 6 inches of snow per year, usually between November and March. Keep reading to learn all about Seattle’s snowy weather patterns.

Seattle’s Winter Climate

When it comes to winter weather, Seattle is known for its mild temperatures compared to other cities in the United States. The city’s unique climate is influenced by its location in the Pacific Northwest and its proximity to the ocean and mountains.

Mild Temperatures

Seattle experiences relatively mild winters, with average temperatures ranging from the mid-30s to low 40s Fahrenheit (around 2-5 degrees Celsius). While temperatures can occasionally drop below freezing, it is not as common as in other parts of the country.

This mild climate is due to the moderating effect of the Pacific Ocean, which helps to keep temperatures relatively stable.

Precipitation Patterns

Seattle is known for its rainy reputation, but what about snow? While the city does receive some snowfall during the winter months, it is not as frequent or heavy as in other regions. On average, Seattle receives about 6 inches of snow per year.

However, it is important to note that snowfall can vary greatly from year to year, with some winters seeing more significant snowstorms than others.

One reason for the limited snowfall in Seattle is its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The warm ocean currents tend to keep the air temperatures above freezing, making it more difficult for snow to form.

Additionally, the city’s hilly terrain and urban heat island effect can also contribute to the melting of snow before it accumulates.

The Role of Geography

Seattle’s geography plays a significant role in its winter climate. The city is surrounded by mountains, including the Olympic Mountains to the west and the Cascade Range to the east. These mountain ranges act as barriers, influencing the weather patterns and creating a rain shadow effect.

As moist air from the Pacific Ocean collides with the mountains, it is forced to rise, cool, and release moisture, resulting in increased rainfall on the western slopes and less precipitation on the eastern side, where Seattle is located.

For more detailed weather information and forecasts for Seattle, you can visit the official website of the National Weather Service Seattle. They provide up-to-date information on current conditions, including snowfall predictions during the winter months.

Notable Snowstorms in Seattle History

The Big Snow of 1916

One of the most memorable snowstorms in Seattle’s history is known as “The Big Snow of 1916.” In this historic event, Seattle experienced a record-breaking snowfall that lasted for several days. The city was covered in a remarkable 30 inches of snow, causing widespread disruption and chaos.

Residents were left stranded, transportation systems came to a halt, and schools and businesses were forced to close. The city had never seen such a significant snowfall before, and it remains one of the most talked-about events in Seattle’s weather history.

The Thanksgiving Storm of 1985

The Thanksgiving Storm of 1985 is another snowstorm that left a lasting impression on Seattle. Just as families were gathering to celebrate the holiday, a powerful storm system brought heavy snowfall to the city.

Seattle was blanketed with over 10 inches of snow, causing travel disruptions and power outages. The storm caught many residents off guard, as November snowstorms are relatively uncommon in the region.

The Thanksgiving Storm of 1985 serves as a reminder that snowfall in Seattle can occur unexpectedly, even during the holiday season.

Snowmageddon in 2008

A particularly memorable snowstorm in recent Seattle history is the infamous “Snowmageddon” of 2008. This storm brought several days of heavy snowfall to the city, with accumulations reaching up to 20 inches in some areas.

The snowfall was accompanied by freezing temperatures, making travel treacherous and causing widespread power outages. Seattle, known for its rainy climate, was completely transformed into a winter wonderland.

Snowball fights, sledding, and snowmen became the norm as residents embraced the rare opportunity to enjoy the winter weather. Snowmageddon in 2008 remains a topic of conversation among Seattleites, highlighting the city’s ability to adapt and find joy in unusual weather events.

While Seattle is not typically known for its heavy snowfall, these notable snowstorms serve as reminders that the city is not immune to significant winter weather events. Seattleites have learned to navigate and appreciate the occasional snowfall, turning unexpected snowstorms into shared experiences and memories.

So the next time someone asks, “Does it snow in Seattle?” you can confidently respond with tales of historic snowstorms that have left their mark on the Emerald City.

When Snow Is Most Likely

Seattle, known for its mild and rainy weather, doesn’t typically see much snowfall throughout the year. However, there are certain times when snow is more likely to occur. Let’s take a closer look at when snow is most likely in Seattle.

December Through February

The months of December through February are the peak winter months in Seattle, and therefore the most likely time for snow to fall. During this time, temperatures drop and the conditions become more favorable for snowfall.

While snowfall amounts can vary greatly from year to year, it is during these months that Seattle residents may wake up to a winter wonderland.

La Niña Winters

La Niña winters, which occur periodically in the Pacific Ocean, can greatly impact the likelihood of snow in Seattle. La Niña is characterized by cooler than average sea surface temperatures, which can result in colder and wetter winter weather patterns in the Pacific Northwest.

When a La Niña event occurs, Seattle has a higher chance of experiencing snowfall.

Nighttime and Early Morning

Snow in Seattle is most likely to occur during the nighttime and early morning hours. The lower temperatures during these times create a higher likelihood for snow to stick and accumulate on the ground.

However, it’s important to note that snowfall in Seattle is often fleeting, with warmer temperatures melting the snow throughout the day.

While snowfall in Seattle is relatively rare, it can still bring excitement and joy to residents who are not accustomed to such weather. It’s always a good idea to stay updated with local weather forecasts and be prepared for potential snow events, especially during the winter months and La Niña winters.

Impacts of Climate Change

Observed Changes

Climate change has been a topic of concern worldwide, and its impacts are becoming increasingly apparent. In recent years, the effects of climate change have been observed in various regions, including Seattle. One of the notable changes is the alteration in precipitation patterns.

Seattle, known for its rainy reputation, has experienced shifts in its precipitation type, including snowfall.

Historically, Seattle has not been known for heavy snowfall. However, in recent years, there have been instances of significant snowfall in the city. The changing climate patterns have resulted in more frequent and intense winter storms, leading to snow accumulation in Seattle.

This has had significant impacts on the city’s infrastructure, transportation systems, and daily life of its residents.

According to data from the National Weather Service, Seattle experienced one of its snowiest winters in recent history in 2019. The city received over 20 inches of snow, causing widespread disruptions and challenges for residents.

In addition to the immediate impacts on daily life, such as school closures and transportation delays, heavy snowfall also poses risks to public safety, including increased accidents and injuries.

Future Projections

Looking ahead, climate models suggest that the impacts of climate change will continue to affect Seattle and its surrounding regions. Projections indicate that the frequency and intensity of winter storms may increase, leading to more instances of snowfall in the coming years.

It is important to note that climate change is a complex phenomenon with various factors at play. While snowfall in Seattle may increase in some years, it does not negate the overall trend of warming temperatures and changing weather patterns associated with climate change.

The occurrence of snowfall in Seattle should not be viewed as contradictory evidence to the broader issue of global warming.

As individuals and communities, it is essential to recognize the impacts of climate change and take steps to mitigate its effects. This includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adopting sustainable practices, and supporting policies that prioritize climate action.

By working together, we can strive to create a more sustainable future for Seattle and beyond.


While Seattle is no stranger to snow, large snowstorms are relatively rare due to its proximity to the moderating effects of the Pacific Ocean. The city sees most of its snowfall between November and March, with the heaviest snow often occurring during La Niña winters. However, climate change may further reduce Seattle’s snowfall in the coming decades.

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