When most people think of Washington winters, they think of rain. And for much of western Washington, that tends to be the case—but not in the “banana belt” of Sequim, which enjoys five times as many sunny days every year as nearby Seattle. What’s the magic secret? A meteorological effect known as the Olympic Rain Shadow.
The Olympic Mountains aren’t just beautiful—they’re also the reason behind this phenomenon. In wintertime Washington, ocean winds carry wet airflow in from the southwest. As that moisture-laden air hits the southwest face of the Olympics, the mountains push it upward, where it condenses and turns to rain. It’s no wonder there are such vast, lush rainforests on the south side of the mountains—that area receives over 200 inches of rain each year! As the air moves northward, it sinks and dries out even more. Since Sequim sits on the north side of the Olympics, it receives the sunny benefits of the Rain Shadow: barely 18 inches of rain a year.
The Rain Shadow effect is so impressive, you can see it in action in this Youtube video. And it even has its own Facebook page, blog, and photo gallery. In fact, it’s one of the many things that makes Sequim such a great place to visit or live: Sequim residents can enjoy the gorgeous natural scenery, amazing recreational opportunities, and balmy weather throughout the year. Local farmers like Nash’s Organic Produce sell delicious organic fruits, vegetables, eggs, and pork year-round, too.
And if you’re not afraid of a little wet weather, the Olympic rainforest in the winter is a great way to see the flip side of the Rain Shadow effect—miles of trails will take you through cool, mysterious rainforests and along rain-swollen, raging rivers. Odds are, you’ll have the park to yourself—and that’s worth damp feet!