Wondering when we’ll see Seattle’s first snowfall this year?
We have good news or bad news, depending on how you feel about snow in Seattle. Some of us love how the lightest snowfall shuts down the city for the day—while others could do without the inconvenience, thanks very much. If you’re in the latter group, you can breathe a sigh of relief. This is predicted to be a strong El Niño winter, which means that Seattle can expect a warm and dry winter with a low chance of snow.
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2023-2024 winter forecast for the country, “Snowfall will be above normal across most snow-prone areas (except for the Pacific Northwest).” The PNW will be “relatively cold and dry” while other states enjoy a snowy winter wonderland, although there is hope for some snow in late December and mid-January.
That tracks with the National Weather Service 30-year average data for snowfall in Seattle, which shows that on average the first snowfall in Seattle occurs by December 26. The earliest first snowfall in Seattle was recorded on October 27, 1971. The data also finds that Seattle gets 5.6 inches of snow on average every season.
Even if you’d prefer a snow-free winter in Seattle, don’t celebrate just yet. A dry winter could have negative repercussions for Seattle. According to NOAA, “Drought development could occur in the interior Pacific Northwest given the chance for drier-than-average conditions.” We already had a dry summer and fall, and the trend is expected to continue with an El Niño winter.
“We need rain and snow in a big way… [but] statistically, it’s not looking good,” reports Mike Everett on king5.com. A mild winter with low precipitation here in the Pacific Northwest could lead to a poor mountain snowpack, the article explains. That said, Everett also says that typical El Niño winter is “an observation, not a law.” Anything could happen!
That brings us to a recent deep dive by Seattle Met, which points out that “two of Seattle’s snowiest winters were El Niños.” The El Niño February of 2019 saw a total snowfall of 21.0 inches in Seattle and the El Niño January of 1969 had a total snowfall of 67.5 inches!
Although those winters were categorized as moderate or weak El Niños while this winter is predicted to be a strong one, that can also be an unreliable indicator of snow in Seattle. After all, the winter of 1965–66 was considered a strong El Niño and Seattle still saw a total of 22.9 inches of snowfall that season.
So even with a strong El Niño winter in the forecast, Seattle could still get a surprise snowfall this year. If we’re talking about statistical odds, however, don’t get your hopes up for a white Christmas in Seattle. Instead, we recommend taking the train to Leavenworth to get your fill of a snowy Christmastown.