Top 10 Rainiest US Cities: Surprisingly, Seattle Is #6

rochester ny rainiest us cities
Wirestock – stock.adobe.com View of the High Falls neighborhood in downtown Rochester, New York.

Have you ever been stuck inside on a rainy day? It can be so frustrating to have to stay inside when it is raining (although you could keep track of how much rain you’re getting with a weather station!). If you’re in some U.S. cities, it’s far more likely to be raining or snowing outside than sunny.

You might be surprised, though: Seattle doesn’t top our list of the rainiest US cities, and we’ll explain why later on.

The Rainiest US Cities

In order, the U.S. cities with the most rainy days per year, defined as more than 0.01″ per day, are:

  1. Rochester, New York: 167 days with rain
  2. Buffalo, New York: 167 days
  3. Portland, Oregon: 164 days
  4. Cleveland, Ohio: 155 days
  5. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: 151 days
  6. Seattle, Washington: 149 days
  7. Columbus, Ohio: 139 days
  8. Cincinnati, Ohio: 137 days
  9. Miami, Florida: 135 days
  10. Detroit, Michigan: 135 days

We should note here that the number of rainy days doesn’t necessarily equate to the most precipitation. That title actually belongs to Mobile, Alabama, which sees 67 inches of rain per year. Mobile sees so much rain because it is in a prime spot for landfilling tropical systems, and the city remains wet during the winter months, too — while southern Florida tends to dry out. However, much of this rain comes in shorter periods and isn’t spread across many days like other cities.

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Why Rochester, New York, and Buffalo Top the List

Rochester and Buffalo are two of the rainiest US cities due to their proximity to Lake Ontario. The lake effect brings a ton of moisture into these areas, which leads to more precipitation.

They also have a more extended rainy season than Seattle. While Seattle has more rain in the winter, Rochester and Buffalo experience rainy seasons during spring and fall, and heavy wintertime lake effect snow adds to the precipitation totals.

Why Seattle is Drier Than You Think

seattle skyline
Diego Gomez – stock.adobe.com

Seattle’s weather conditions are influenced by three factors: the rain shadow effect, proximity to water, and wind patterns.

The city of Seattle is located in an area where there isn’t much precipitation to begin with because it is on one side of a mountain range that blocks rainfall from reaching the area. The Olympic Mountains block about half of all incoming moisture from the Pacific Ocean from reaching Seattle.

Seattle also experiences a strong “rain shadow” effect due to its proximity to water and prevailing winds that bring in more moisture-rich air from over the ocean rather than off the land.

Wind patterns also drive Seattle’s shifts between wetter and drier weather. During the winter, winds flow in from an easterly direction. When they hit land near Seattle, these moist air currents bring water vapor over the ocean and drop it as precipitation. During the summer months, these westerly-bringing wind currents tend to not transport much moisture at all for Washington State due to high-pressure systems, which lead to less rain during the summer in Seattle.

Why Miami, Florida Gets More Rain in Summer

If you live in Florida, you might think due to summertime thunderstorms that seemingly happen every day might make a place like Miami one of the rainiest US cities. But sunshine, especially in the winter, is much more common than you think. Miami is rainiest in the summer and drier in the winter, the opposite of Seattle. There are reasons why this happens.

The city has a subtropical climate with a wet season between May and October, when it experiences its highest precipitation. During this time, hot, humid tropical air masses are pushed northward by easterly winds from the tropical Atlantic, which precipitate as they push up against the Florida eastern coast. Tropical systems such as hurricanes and tropical storms also add to rainfall totals during the summer.

However, the city has much less rainfall in the winter as high-pressure systems are firmly in control, steering storms away from the city and the rest of the state.

Why Ohio is As Wet As Seattle (And More So)

cleveland skyline
Douglas – stock.adobe.com

Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati have just about as many days with measurable precipitation as Seattle, even though they are considerably inland — making them surprising entries in the list of the rainiest US cities. So why does this happen? The influence of the Great Lakes, the world’s most extensive freshwater lake system, plays a significant role.

These two cities are very close to the Great Lakes, and they receive moisture from these significant bodies of water throughout most seasons. This is especially true in spring and fall when cold fronts drop southward off of Canada’s Hudson Bay, bringing with them loads of precipitation that soaks both Columbus and Cincinnati. Cleveland also sits on the shore of Lake Erie itself, giving it a source of moisture that other inland cities away from the East and West Coast do not.

They also get snowfall during winter months when low-pressure systems bring Arctic air masses southward into the region. While this doesn’t happen often, it can be exacerbated when low-pressure systems sit over or near Lake Erie, one of the five Great Lakes close to both cities.

While there are many other cities, especially across the Northwest and Northeastern US that also see well over 100 days with measurable precipitation, they didn’t quite make our list. Have no fear though, the sun will eventually come out!

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