There is a cartoon that has been making the rounds in online Seattle circles lately.
The cartoon is here, and I include this scaled-down version simply for discussion purposes:
Now, I like the cartoon. It’s funny. I laughed. It’s up there with my other favorite Seattle weather saying:
“April showers bring May showers.”
Creative exaggeration is a staple of humor, and it is to be appreciated.
While my right brain had a good laugh at the illustration, however, my left brain kicked into gear.
“Sure, it’s cloudy here a lot, but just how exaggerated IS this cartoon?”, I wondered.
Well, after an afternoon of research, I have the answer.
First, the cartoon does deserve some props. It does make a valid comparative point.
I have learned that Seattle is, indeed, the least sunny major city in the continental United States. We have more clouds and more days of rain than any other city in the lower 48 (not counting smaller places like Forks and Aberdeen).
But, what exactly does “least amount” mean?
“Least” by double the average? Triple?
These are very important considerations as getting 5% less sunshine and 90% less sunshine makes a world of difference. The cartoon says that Seattle gets two seconds of sunshine each year, and I know that it was meant to be silly, but just HOW silly you probably underestimated.
The fact of the matter is that Seattle gets significantly more than two seconds of sunlight per year. We actually get 2,174 (two thousand one hundred seventy four) hours. Put into “12 hour daytime” terms, this is 175 days of clear, unobstructed sunshine. Each and every year.
So, how does this compare to the rest of the USA?
New York City gets 2,600 hours of sunshine per year, which is 17% more than Seattle receives;
Portland gets 2,347 hours, which is 8% more than Seattle;
Chicago gets 2,511 hours, 14% more;
Buffalo gets 2,204, 1% more;
Boston gets 2,638 hours, 18% more;
Miami gets 3,154 hours, 31% more;
Los Angeles gets 3,265 hours, 35% more;
So, while Seattle is certainly cloudy IN RELATION to most other U.S. cities, it’s not overwhelmingly so. It’s only about 1/5th more gloomy than our largest city, New York.
But, what about the rest of the world?
This is where things get interesting, and the myth of Seattle’s unique doom and gloom really begins to get shattered.
Check this out:
London gets only 1,461 hours of sunshine each year. This is a full 33% LESS than Seattle;
Paris gets 1,630, 26% less.
Berlin receives 1,625, 26% less.
Amsterdam 1,601, 27% less.
That’s only Europe, though, how about the other side of the world?
Here again, Seattle does “well”.
Tokyo gets only 1,847 hours of sunlight each year, which is a full 15% less than Seattle, and Seoul, Korea gets 2,114, which is about on par with us.
So, what does all of this mean?
It means that, while Seattle is dim by United States standards, it is actually quite bright by international standards.
The people that whine and moan about the gloom in Seattle would never make it in Europe or Japan. If they think it’s bad here, they would be completely overwhelmed in those other locales.
These statistics might also “out” a few people as perhaps being slightly less authentic than they would have you believe. Real walkers, bikers, scooter-riders, cafe sitters, poetry readers, and other dense urban creatures thrive in this weather. Those who don’t tend to pine for the climate of Anaheim.
All of you hipsters out there who think you are worldy and international better stop complaining about the Seattle gloominess, and fast. It’s blowing your cover. You’re announcing to the world that you could never survive in far hipper and more urban environs. Your average American-ness is showing — a fate worse than death among the fixie-riding, MacBook-toting crowd.
Next time your hipper-than-thou friend goes on yet another whiny, “I’m sooooo depressed here” rant, you may want to show them this article.
Maybe, just maybe, you’ll never have to hear them whine again.
At least not about the weather.
For more Seattle Weather myth busting: