Turns out, Seattle's snow fans have legitimate beef with Mother Nature
Snow fans in Seattle might be feeling a bit robbed this winter. And it turns out, they might have a case.
After a couple essentially snowless winters in the city, snow fans finally got what looked to be a reprieve -- it's been the coldest December-January in the past 26 years.
Yet Seattle has barely had any snow to show for it. Officially, Sea-Tac Airport has 4 inches of snow this year, but 3" of that fell in a narrow band that just managed to hit the airport. Downtown Seattle has had considerably less -- probably about 1".
With the help of Dana Felton at the National Weather Service, he helped me compare how past winters of similar chills have fared in the snow department. Turns out, almost all of them have done much better.
This December-January was tied for the 11th coldest on record at Sea-Tac Airport since 1945. This chart shows the 5 winters directly above and below this year's numbers for comparison of how they did in the snow department:
1990-91 is asterisked because Sea-Tac's gauge froze during the epic snow/freezing rain event of Dec. 1990 and it only officially registered 4.2" of snow, but other nearby observations suggest the actual snowfall was around 10 inches or more.
You can see there's a couple other winters of spurned snow fans -- good grief 1978-79! But for the most part, a winter this cold has led to a decent amount of snow. It's especially apparent the last time we were this cold - the infamous December 2008 snow storms here. And remember, that 4.0" this year, while officially accurate, probably deserves a small asterisk for not being very representative of the region and overstating things a bit.
But what likely makes this winter even more maddening for snow fans is that the snow has been around - just not *here*.
The greater Portland area has had several snow and freezing rain events this winter -- to the tune of 11.2" of accumulated snow. And oh look, they have more winter precipitation on the way this week. While Seattle has had several days cold enough to snow, the moisture has stayed roughly south of Lewis County. And on the days when the moisture did get here, Seattle was about 1-3 degrees too warm for it to snow. There were a couple events where Seattle could have had 2-4" of snow or more had it been just 2-3 degrees cooler. Or had several inches had the moisture just trekked another 100 miles farther north.
But alas, just a string of bad luck for the snow fans has left at least the heart of Seattle on the sidelines. Some spots, like the Eastside foothills and northern Whatcom County, have fared a lot better, but for those in the heart of the city, it's as if some tech company here is testing a snow shield and if so, it's working perfectly.
(Now, turn it off, says this snow fan.)