a blog about Kilt and her kids plus Trouble our JRT mascot.

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Sequim, Washington, United States

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sequim (rainfall)

Many people don't understand the variation in weather patterns in Washington.  You have to study the weather in the region you are interested. My folks lived up near Seattle for 5 years and my son lives on Whidbey Island.  I constantly hear, "How will you be able to stand all of that rain?"  That probably won't be a problem.  Maybe, gloomy gray days might be.  I don't know yet.  That was the reason I chose a high, full southern exposure home.  I knew I didn't want an eastern exposure or too close to the water.  The fog is so thick where I camped at the Dungeness recreation area, it was like it was raining every night.  I would go to bed dry, leave a window in the truck open a bit, and wake up soaked.
I like coolness.  I will be happier wearing a sweatshirt versus sweating to death in high dry heat.  Plus, it didn't feel all that cool to me while I was there because first of all, it was summer and secondly, the humidity.  If it is 60 degrees with a 70-80 humidity it feels pretty warm to me.  That's tee shirt weather. I think the humidity and coolness will feel great...for us and for the dogs.  If I'm wrong....oh well.  LOL  The only one, for sure, that isn't going to enjoy it is Trouble.  Trouble likes 90 degree heat.  She can have an electric bed :0)

Full southern exposure

Yes, I found great roomy homes with barns, garages, out buildings, etc.  BUT, I knew we would not be happy with the location.  We are not spring chickens anymore.  This is a retirement home :0)  

                                                             The Weather Although many tend to think of all of Western Washington as a damp green rainforest, the truth is rather different. There are great variations. Most are traceable to the huge mass of the Olympic Mountain range, a massif with peaks up to nearly 8,000 feet, lying directly in the path of the normal storm track, like a giant wall. Since the majority of rain-bearing storms, and especially the wettest ones, tend to attack the region from the SW, one notes a strong Rain Shadow effect on the NE side of the Olympics. On the graphic, one notes an eight-fold decrease in rainfall as one takes a direct SW line across from Sequim (2.4 inches) to Clearwater (16.6 inches), an airline distance of only 80 miles.
Areas in the most extreme part of this rain shadow receive only about 16 to 20 inches of rainfall per year, only half of what the Seattle/Tacoma area receives! This driest area centers around Sequim, which appears to be the driest town in all of Western Washington, with a bare 16 inches of yearly rainfall. For years, pilots have called the Sequim area "The Blue Hole" due to its tendency to have relatively clearer skies than areas to the east and west of it.... The rain shadow extends out onto the nearby islands somewhat, eg. to Coupeville with just under 21 inches, and to Anacortes in the San Juan Islands, with just over 26 inches. On the eastern shores of Puget Sound the rainfall increases, the driest site I could locate being Mt. Vernon at 32.3 inches. The main Seattle area has several recording sites, and they vary between about 35 and 37 inches per year (despite the fact that Seattle has a reputation as a wet West Coast city, the Sound's wettest large city is a lot wetter than Seattle- it's Olympia, with over 53 inches of annual rainfall)
Why doesn't the Sequim Rain Shadow area look like a desert?
To the casual traveler's eyes, these deeply rain-shadowed areas around Sequim do not appear as dry as they actually are. There are at least four major reasons: 1. Since the entire region is at a relatively high latitude (about 48 degrees), the intensity of solar radiation is low enough that evaporation and other desertifying processes are relatively weak.. .2 Despite the big reduction of rainfall in the rain-shadowed zones, there is only a modest increase in clear skies and sunshine, which remain near the low annual levels which afflict all of Western Washington... 3. Although yearly rainfall decreases to only 16-20 inches in the driest zones, it is still not dry enough to change the basic vegetation very much, especially once one factors in the protective effects of the damp and fairly sunless climate.... 4. the Sequim area in particular has a strong tendency to collect summertime fogs, which hold its average daily highs to barely over 70 degrees even in midsummer; these fogs reduce sunshine, increase humidity values, and decrease any summertime evaporation. In fact, the fogs often are thick enough to actually water the vegetation through a process of dew collection, like the coastal deserts of Peru. These four reasons go a long way toward explaining why the 16 inches of rainfall in Sequim does not succeed in making the area look very dry. 

For reasons such as those quoted above, the main trees of Western Washington continue to be seen, even though the area's climate is near their limits in terms of dryness...This having been said, the discerning visitor can note some significant vegetation changes; chiefly, dry-area plants such as Garry oaks and grasslands can be seen. Although you can find some very nice wild flowers here, it can be very difficult to grow certain plants and flowers in your garden. If you want to enjoy some flowers or plants from out of the region, you may want to try having those plants delivered instead of trying to grow them yourself..These vegetation types (eg. Garry Oaks) really cannot survive in the wetter areas of Western Washington, but around Sequim the relative dryness allows them to get by, despite the lack of the heat and dry air that they prefer.
One correspondent claimed to me that there even existed native cacti around Sequim... This was such an amazing claim that I made a special trip to the area, and, indeed, her evidence was incontrovertible! (see image from Nov. 2009)...These cacti are a tiny prickly pear cactus (opuntia fragilis). They were reported to be in some abundance by the the first white settlers to the area, so if they are not native, it is truly difficult to explain how else they got to the Sequim area! Since Sequim's average daily high temperature in even the warmest month is only 72 degrees, these must be some pretty cold-adapted cacti! My image doesn't give the viewer a sense of scale, but these are LITTLE, they struggle to get by, it is amazing to me how adaptable cacti can be (my image covers a tiny area, only a bit over two inches long).
The Southern Puget Sound area is routinely wetter than the mid-Sound area around Tacoma and Seattle. What is occurring in places such as Olympia is that the typically SW track of the major storms has a direct line to Olympia, basically unimpeded by Olympic rain-shadow effects. In my graphic above, December 1990 was a significantly subnormal month in the Olympia area. The average for December is actually well over 8 inches, not the 5.1 inches that fell in December 1990.... Shelton, about 15 miles NW of Olympia, is even wetter, averaging about 66 inches of rain per year.

Yakima Valley Rain Shadow-- Here's an example of a rain shadow that has created a region that looks very deserty! As one ascends up the Cascades onto Mt. Rainier, rainfall increases at Paradise Lodge (5,500 ft) to levels as high as the low-lying areas on the western slopes of the Olympics, but then drops off rapidly into an extreme rain shadow on the east side of the Cascades, particularly extreme behind the massive bulks of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams. This is where the Yakima Valley lies. Descending off the wet and heavily-forested crest of the Cascades, even the casual traveler will note the very obvious and radical alterations in the vegetation as they drive toward the Yakima Valley-- in this, quite unlike the much more subtle rain shadow around Sequim (see above).... In December 1990 the city of Yakima saw a meagar 0.2 inches of rainfall, less than a tenth as much as Sequim, the driest location in Western Washington (see graphic at page top) ). And unlike areas like Sequim, the Yakima area is not only dry, but also experiences a great deal of sunshine and clear skies, creating a harsh climate where even oak trees have trouble surviving without additional water. The actual long-term precipitation averages give the Yakima-Sunnyside-Wapato area a scanty 7 to 8 inches of rain per year. That is really dry!

And, there you have it.  I always suggest to my friends that they put the "weather" on their phones or iPads where ever they want to move to and look at it weekly.  That will give them a good idea if that's where they want to move!


Doree said...

I think the Chamber of Commerce should hire you!! The weather was exactly the reason I looked a Sequim years ago. Just decided it was a little too remote for me. You're going to love it tho'!!

gvmama said...

I had a good realtor. He said he would have bought the house I bought if it had about 1000 sq feet more :0)

But, he knew all about going for the southern exposure, etc. I think I bought in the best area of Sequim. That's why they call it Happy Valley :0)

Anonymous said...

Why is it you won't be happy with the location???


gvmama said...

I'm hoping to be very happy with the location. :0)