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How bad is our spring weather this year? Pretty miserable, but not like 1955

caption: A pedestrian walks through the rain in November 2019 at Kerry Park in Seattle.
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A pedestrian walks through the rain in November 2019 at Kerry Park in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Believe it or not, the start of summer is about a month away. It sure doesn't feel like it, right? The weather this spring has been downright crummy. That prompted this question from a local weather blogger: Is this the most miserable spring in Seattle history?

To find out, KUOW’s Kim Malcolm reached out to Justin Shaw, who runs the Seattle Weather Blog and Twitter account, where he muses on all things Seattle weather.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Kim Malcolm: How wet and cold has this spring been?

Justin Shaw: As anyone who stepped outside has known, it has definitely been on the chilly side. Spring is running about three degrees cooler than normal, at around 48 degrees average temperature. We should be around 51 degrees.

In terms of rain, we've had about nine inches of rainfall, which is about 10 percent above normal. It's been cool, and it's been damp, for sure.

I think people were particularly insulted on May 12. Can you remind us what happened that day?

Our average high for mid-May is around 66 degrees. On May 12, we saw yet another cold system drop in from the northwest. The high that day was 51. That set a record for the coldest high temperature ever observed on May 12, about 15 degrees below normal.

Why has it been so cold and rainy? What is going on?

The real culprit here is La Niña, this phenomenon where you get cooler than normal water in the equatorial Pacific. That impacts the large-scale weather pattern over the western United States. What typically happens is you get high pressure over the Aleutian Islands and the North Pacific, and then you get low pressure, which brings cold and rain, setting up over the Northwest. That's just delivering system after system into our area.

I would add that La Niña springs are notorious for being cold and damp. We haven't had one this cold and damp in a while, but it's really not that unusual. They're often downright gloomy and miserable.

Is this the most miserable spring in Seattle history?

It's not. In the short term, it is. The average temperature this spring is the coldest since 2011. If you add in the rain, that's also the most rain we've seen in spring since 2011. But if you go back further in time, to the 1950s and 1960s, cold springs were much more common. There were a couple of them, the spring of 1955 in particular, that were just hands down way worse than this one.

In the spring of 1955, the average temperature was under 45 degrees. This spring is running in about three degrees below normal. The spring of 1955 was six degrees below normal.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to more accurately reflect the average spring rainfall amounts in the Seattle area.

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.

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