Why Is the Pacific Northwest So Rainy?


Discover the secrets behind the rainy Pacific Northwest, and learn to make the most of a wet winter.

A drizzle on your lunch break, the misty wind on a trip to the coast, and the drenching downpours on your hike in the woods. Pacific Northwesterners are well-versed in rain. But what makes this region we call home so wet? Unique terrain and notorious weather patterns hold the answer. While it may be damp, we still get outdoors and enjoy the wonders of the upper left coast in style.

Wet weather

Low pressure systems are one of the main reasons the Pacific Northwest is so darn wet and rainy. Building in the Gulf of Alaska, these storms barrel right toward Oregon, Washington, and Canada, dumping condensation on the way. We’re also right in the path of the jet stream, a fast-moving air current that circles the earth at a latitude in line with the border of Canada and the United States. This air stream creates a channel for low pressure systems, adding more rain and wind to our region.

The terrain in the PNW is the next key to the puzzle. Moist wind blowing in from the coast hits the Cascade range, forcing the moisture higher and turning it into thick clouds and dense rainfall further inland. While Oregon and Washington are known to be wet, rainfall varies greatly throughout each state. Changes in elevation are a main cause for the difference. Only about 36 inches of rain fall in Seattle and Portland each year, whereas some places along the coast get 10 feet or so. This precipitation happens over a longer period than other regions, though, helping to give the Pacific Northwest its lush, green visage.

Uncommon trends

Recently, the upper left coast has been getting some harsh weather. Winter Storm Maya hit the Seattle area hard in 2017, dumping more snow than the city’s seen in five years. People in Portland also had their fair share of snow, with 2017 having the seventh-coldest winter on record. While snow days and sledding are fun, keeping that winter gear in your home year-round isn’t. With this increased snowfall, melting ice and rain can also result in some unexpected flooding.

A rainy life

Just because it gets wet here in the PNW doesn’t mean we miss out on fun. Beyond just dealing with the rain, we thrive in it! The upper left coast has one of the best craft beer scenes in the world. With heavy rainfall comes great water, and great water means excellent beer! A nice cold pint can also help you get through the rainy months.

Oregon and Washington are also home to some of the best coffee shops around. Along with big names like Starbucks and Dutch Bros., there are also countless small roasters and shops like Upper Left Roasters and Dubsea Coffee. A warm cup of joe can definitely banish the cold and wet weather from anyone’s mind.

If Pacific Northwesterners were fair-weather people, no one would get anything done. Instead, we bundle up in outdoor gear and get outside, rain or shine. With lush green landscapes to enjoy, there’s hiking, kayaking, climbing, skiing, and swimming galore. Enjoying the upper left coast goes beyond our gorgeous summers. Seeing Multnomah Falls covered in ice, or battling the heavy, rainy winds on the coast to see tide pools is all part of enjoying the great PNW.

So don’t worry about the rain. Instead get outside to enjoy the upper left coast! Then, when you’ve made it through a snowy winter or blistering summer, consider finding a secure spot in Oregon or a dry place in Washington to protect your seasonal stuff.

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Tuesday December 5, 2017