How Cold Is Seattle In Winter? Bracing For The City’S Chilly Season

With its rainy reputation, some may assume Seattle has mild, damp winters. But residents know the Emerald City sees cold temperatures that can dip below freezing. If you’re wondering how cold Seattle gets in winter, here’s a quick overview: December through February average lows are in the mid 30s Fahrenheit, with arctic blasts sometimes plummeting temps into the teens.

In this extensive guide, we’ll break down Seattle’s winter weather patterns, temperature averages, and record lows. You’ll learn how climate, geography, and other factors create cold snaps, wind chill, and freezing rain. We’ll also provide tips on handling the Seattle chill.

Average Low Temperatures by Month

December Lows

In Seattle, December is the start of the city’s chilly season. The average low temperature in December hovers around 36°F (2°C). This means that residents and visitors alike should be prepared for frosty mornings and cool evenings.

It’s a good idea to layer up and keep a warm coat handy when exploring the city during this time of year.

January and February Lows

As winter progresses, January and February bring even colder temperatures to Seattle. The average low temperature in January is around 35°F (2°C), while February sees a drop to about 34°F (1°C). These months can be quite chilly, so it’s important to bundle up and stay warm to fully enjoy all that Seattle has to offer.

Don’t forget a hat, gloves, and a scarf to protect yourself from the biting cold!

Daily Temperature Cycles

While the average low temperatures give us a general idea of how cold it gets in Seattle during winter, it’s also important to note the daily temperature cycles. During the winter months, the temperature tends to drop significantly at night, with lows reaching the mid-30s°F (around 2°C).

However, it’s not uncommon for the temperature to rise during the day, reaching the mid-40s°F (around 7°C). This fluctuation can make dressing for the weather a bit tricky, so layering is key to staying comfortable throughout the day.

It’s worth mentioning that weather patterns can vary from year to year, so it’s always a good idea to check the forecast before planning any outdoor activities in Seattle during the winter months. Stay warm and enjoy the beauty of the city, even in its chilliest season!

Winter Weather Events

Seattle, known for its mild and temperate climate, experiences some notable winter weather events that can make the city feel considerably colder. From freezing rain to arctic blasts and cold waves, here are some weather phenomena to be aware of during Seattle’s chilly season.

Freezing Rain

Freezing rain occurs when raindrops freeze upon contact with surfaces that are at or below freezing temperatures. This can create a layer of ice on roads, sidewalks, and other surfaces, making them dangerously slippery.

Seattle’s hilly terrain can make navigating the city particularly challenging during freezing rain events.

According to the National Weather Service, freezing rain is more common in areas with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark. In Seattle, freezing rain events are relatively infrequent but can occur during winter months, leading to hazardous conditions.

Arctic Blasts and Cold Waves

Seattle occasionally experiences arctic blasts and cold waves, which are characterized by a sudden and significant drop in temperatures. These events can bring bitterly cold air from the Arctic region, causing temperatures to plummet below freezing.

During arctic blasts and cold waves, it is essential to take necessary precautions to protect yourself from the extreme cold. This includes wearing warm and layered clothing, covering exposed skin, and staying indoors if possible.

It’s also important to ensure that your home is properly insulated to keep the cold air out and maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.

Wind Chill Factor

The wind chill factor refers to how cold it feels when the combined effect of wind and temperature is taken into account. Even if the actual air temperature in Seattle during winter is not extremely low, the wind chill factor can make it feel much colder.

According to the National Weather Service, wind chill can cause the body to lose heat more rapidly, leading to increased risk of frostbite and hypothermia. It’s important to dress appropriately for the wind chill conditions by wearing windproof and insulated clothing, as well as covering exposed extremities.

While Seattle doesn’t typically experience extreme winter weather, it’s always a good idea to stay informed about potential weather events and be prepared for colder temperatures. By understanding freezing rain, arctic blasts, cold waves, and the wind chill factor, you can better navigate the city’s chilly season and stay safe and comfortable throughout the winter months.

Record Low Temperatures

Seattle is known for its mild climate, but that doesn’t mean it’s immune to cold temperatures in the winter. While it may not experience extreme winter weather like some parts of the country, the city has had its fair share of chilly days and record low temperatures.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these notable occurrences.

All-Time Record Low

When it comes to the all-time record low temperature in Seattle, it occurred on January 31, 1950. On that day, the mercury dropped to a bone-chilling -5 degrees Fahrenheit (-20.6 degrees Celsius). This frigid temperature is a testament to the fact that even in a typically mild climate, Mother Nature can still surprise us with her icy grip.

It’s worth noting that this record low temperature was an anomaly for Seattle. The city’s average low temperature in winter hovers around 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), making it one of the more temperate cities in the United States during the colder months.

Coldest Winters in History

While the all-time record low stands out, there have been other winters in Seattle’s history that were particularly cold. One notable example is the winter of 1949-1950, which brought a series of arctic blasts and prolonged cold spells.

This winter was not only known for its record low temperature, but also for its overall cold and snowy conditions.

Another noteworthy winter in Seattle was the winter of 1985-1986. This season brought unusually cold temperatures, with freezing conditions lasting for an extended period. Snowfall also exceeded the city’s average, causing disruptions in daily life and creating picturesque winter scenes.

It’s important to keep in mind that while these winters were colder than usual for Seattle, they still fall within the realm of what one might expect in colder climates. Nonetheless, they serve as a reminder that even in a city known for its moderate weather, winter can bring its fair share of chilly surprises.

For more information on Seattle’s weather patterns and historical data, you can visit the National Weather Service Seattle website. It provides detailed information about the city’s climate, including temperature records and seasonal trends.

Geography and Climate Influences

Seattle’s winter weather is influenced by various geographical and climatic factors. Understanding these influences can help us better comprehend the city’s chilly season.

Rain Shadow Effect

One significant influence on Seattle’s winter climate is the rain shadow effect. The city is situated between the Olympic Mountains to the west and the Cascade Range to the east. As moist air from the Pacific Ocean moves inland, it encounters these mountain ranges.

The air is forced to rise, and as it ascends, it cools, causing precipitation. However, due to the rain shadow effect, the Olympic Mountains block much of the moisture, resulting in less rainfall on the western side of Seattle.

This effect plays a role in the city’s overall winter climate, including its temperature.

Coastal Effects

Seattle’s proximity to the coast also impacts its winter climate. The Pacific Ocean has a moderating influence on temperatures, preventing extreme cold or hot spells. During winter, the ocean acts as a heat reservoir, maintaining relatively mild temperatures in the city.

The maritime influence also contributes to the city’s high humidity levels, which can make the cold feel more biting. However, the coastal location can also bring occasional storms and strong winds, adding to the winter weather challenges.

Elevation Impacts

The city’s varying elevations further contribute to differences in winter temperatures. Seattle is characterized by hills and valleys, with some areas at higher elevations than others. Generally, the higher the elevation, the colder the temperatures tend to be.

For instance, neighborhoods on the hills may experience slightly lower temperatures compared to those in the valleys. This variation in elevation can result in microclimates within the city, where some areas may feel colder than others.

Understanding the geography and climate influences on Seattle’s winter weather helps residents and visitors prepare for the chilly season. By knowing about the rain shadow effect, coastal effects, and elevation impacts, individuals can make appropriate choices in terms of clothing, outdoor activities, and overall planning.

Preparing for the Cold

Winter in Seattle can be quite chilly, so it’s important to be prepared and take necessary precautions. Here are some tips to help you brace for the cold:

Layering Clothes

Layering your clothing is key to staying warm in Seattle’s winter weather. Start with a base layer made of materials like wool or thermal fabrics that can trap heat close to your body. Add a middle layer for insulation, such as a sweater or fleece jacket.

Finally, top it off with a waterproof and windproof outer layer to protect against the elements. Don’t forget to wear hats, scarves, and gloves to keep your extremities warm as well.

Avoiding Hypothermia

Hypothermia is a serious condition that can occur when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, leading to a dangerously low body temperature. To avoid hypothermia, it’s important to know the warning signs and take steps to stay warm.

Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. To prevent hypothermia, dress warmly, stay dry, and limit your time outdoors in extremely cold temperatures.

Protecting Homes and Pets

During cold winter months, it’s important to take steps to protect your home and pets from the harsh weather. Make sure your home is properly insulated and check for any drafts or leaks. Keep your pets indoors as much as possible, and if they must be outside, provide them with shelter, warm bedding, and fresh water that won’t freeze.

Be cautious of icy conditions and use salt or sand to prevent slips and falls on walkways.


While winters in Seattle are relatively mild compared to many parts of the country, frigid arctic air and below-freezing temps are not uncommon—especially at night. By understanding the climate factors, record lows, and proper cold weather precautions, locals and visitors can thrive during the city’s chilly, wet winters.

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