Monday, January 17, 2011

The Emerald City: A Surprisingly Mild Place to Be

It is not the perfect climate, nor is it much of a tourist draw, but Seattle, Washington has a climate you would not expect for being so far up North. The latitude here is 47 degrees north, the same latitude as northern France. We are about a two and a half hour  drive from the Canadian border-yet even so, snow fall in Seattle is rare (some seasons it doesn't snow at all), and the average temperature the past few days has been in the upper forties-lower fifties (I am writing this on January 17). But don't get me wrong-ever once in a while, the temperature drops into the twenties. Also, with the prevalent rain here, winter can be cold, damp, and dreary-but rarely as cold as, say, Chicago or even New York City. Temperature-wise, it's a bit like Memphis, Tennessee in the winter time. Except for one crucial fact: in Memphis, it rains occasionally. It Seattle, it rains constantly.

Seattle has such a mild climate because of it's location in a huge valley, with the Cascades to the east and the Olympcs to the west. Running through the center of this valley is Puget Sound, an arm of the Pacific. Just off the Pacific coast, a warm current moderates the temps, and the mountains block cold Arctic air from having much of an effect.

A tropical paradise it's not, but Seattle's climate is remarkably mild. The only trouble is the rain. Anyone visiting the Emerald City should take an umbrella.

As for the character of the city itself, it is marked by an astonishing prevalence of courtesy and friendliness-Seattle is quite civil, unusually so. The setting of this city is spectacular; downtown rests upon a  hill overlooking Puget Sound, and when the sky is clear, Mt. Rainier, perhaps the most perfectly shaped volcano on Earth, looms over all like an ominous stone idol.

Beautiful, clean, high-tech, space age, and  ├╝ber-liberal, Seattle is unique and distinctive.

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