OWSC

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the climate of Washington?

Washington's geography, especially the Cascade Mountain range, produces two vastly different climates in eastern and western Washington. Western Washington is often greatly influenced by the ocean, and is much wetter and milder than Eastern Washington. Additional stark differences are produced by the rain shadow effect of the Olympic Mountain range, so that for example Quinault has an annual average precipitation of 137" but in Sequim, only 56 miles away as the crow flies, the annual average precipitation is 16". For much more detailed information view the Climates of the States and Climate of Washington Narrative

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What is the average annual temperature and amount precipitation for Washington?

A true statewide average requires accounting for the variation of temperature and precipitation in mountainous and other uninstrumented areas using statistical techniques, as is done with the PRISM dataset from Oregon State University:

  • Overall Temperature: 48.3 F
  • Max Temperature: 56.6 F
  • Min Temperature: 36.6 F
  • Precipitation: 45.70 inches

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Where can I find historical weather and climate data?

There are a variety of sources online to obtain climate data for various purposes, most of which are difficult to navigate. With the help of our "Climate Map Inventory" you can select a station and get instructions on finding climate data from that station. Click here to access the Climate Map Inventory. Be sure to also check out our Climate Data section for additional information and graphics.

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Where can I find drought related information for Washington?

The OWSC, and other local and state agencies coordinate our efforts in accessing Washington's current and future state of drought with the Washington Department of Ecology. For the most up-to-date information go to the WA Dept. of Ecology Water Supply Information website or UW Hydrologic Monitoring & Prediction System

For additional information go to:

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What is the difference between climate and weather?

Climate is what you expect.
Climate is usually defined as averages (and other statistics) of weather variables over some period of time, usually 30 years. Weather observations eventually turn into climate records. "Climate forecasts" are usually expressed as shifts in the statistics of weather over the next 1-12 months.

Weather is what you get!
Weather is described in terms of temperature, precipitation, cloudiness, wind speed, and so on. A description of these variables at any given moment constitutes weather; weather forecasts are much more specific than climate forecasts.

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Is global warming happening or is this just a natural cycle?

The world is unquestionably warming - the more difficult question to answer is whether human activity (chiefly the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas) is responsible. Dozens of scientific studies have demonstrated that the increase in globally averaged temperature since about 1950 cannot be explained as a natural cycle or the result of changes in solar output or cosmic rays or volcanoes, but can be explained as a result of rising greenhouse gases. For detailed answers see realclimate.org. On smaller scales like eastern or western Washington, though, it is not yet possible to show conclusively that the observed warming is a result of human activity, though it is unlikely natural causes can explain all of the observed warming.

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What are the effects of climate change on Washington state?

For a comprehensive look at climate change affecting Washington, view the Climate Impacts Group's look on Pacific Northwest Climate Change, and for the Puget Sound region see Climate Change and Its Effects on Puget Sound.

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What constitutes a 100-year storm?

A 100-year storm means that there is a 1% probability that the amount of precipitation that falls during a specified length of time, will be equaled or exceeded at a location for any given year. A 100-year storm on one day does nothing to change your chances of seeing the same amount of rainfall from a similar storm on another day (in the same year). Similarly, a 10-year storm has a 10% probability of occurring. To find the amount of precipitation that constitutes a 5, 10, 50 or 100 year storm view: Isopluvial Maps of Washington

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I want to retire in Sequim - is it true that it's the driest place in western Washington?

The average annual precipitation in Sequim and the surrounding area in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains (Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Whidbey and San Juan Islands) is lower than anywhere else in western Washington and in fact is lower than Sacramento, California! However, its location on the strait of Juan de Fuca ensures that summertime maximum temperatures rarely exceed 80 degrees and dew points are relatively high, so it does not feel dry the way Sacramento and other locations in the Southwest do. That's why houses in Sequim can grow moss on the roof (see photo 1, photo 2).

Find more information about the Olympic Mountain Rain Shadow including current monitoring efforts.

Resources for Locating Other Retirement Locations:

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