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What if Seattle's rain were snow?

We'd be buried in the stuff, instead of bare and increasingly unlikely to see any more big snowfalls this year.

This time of year, it's hard not to contemplate that precipitation can fall in more or less pleasant forms. The rare flurry of soft flakes looks and feels preferable to the wet oobleck I walked through Monday from the Genius Bar to the car at U. Village. As I showered in cold rain, I thought how nice it would be if it were replaced by a blizzard.

And that brought a question to mind. If our rain fell as snow, how much would we get in a winter? I contacted everyone's favorite expert meteorologist, Cliff Mass, and asked him what a typical rainfall from November through March might bring. "That is an easy one," he replied. "Typically, there is a ten to one ratio of rain to snow ... 10 inches of snow would melt down to roughly 1 inch of rain. So November through March rainfall at Sea Tac is 25.38 inches, so we would get around 250 inches of snow. Now that would give any Seattle mayor some pause." That would also make Seattle a major ski resort.

So another couple of inches doesn't seem like too much to ask before the end of the season. This being a La Nina year, I expected a little more snow in the Puget Sound lowlands than we've had so far, and we're running out of time for more. (Mass, by the way, has an explanation for the pattern that's throwing La Nina off track in the Western United States.)

Last week on KUOW, Eli Sanders and I bet Joni Balter, our colleague on the Friday news roundtable, that we'd have no more snow this year because the window is closing fast. Mass says there are about three weeks left for the possibility of a major snow event, maybe six weeks for getting a storm that would drop a few inches. Nothing is in view. (To my mind, anything that sticks is a major snow event, but let's not quibble about definitions.)

My inner 9-year-old is rooting for more white stuff; my adult self is betting against it. But I won't be sorry to get some of the 250-inches we're "due."

Knute Berger is Mossback, Crosscut's chief Northwest native. He also writes the monthly Grey Matters column for Seattle magazine and is a weekly Friday guest on Weekday on KUOW-FM (94.9). His newest book is Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes On Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice, published by Sasquatch Books. In 2011, he was named Writer-in-Residence at the Space Needle and is author of Space Needle, The Spirit of Seattle (2012), the official 50th anniversary history of the tower. You can e-mail him at mossback@crosscut.com.


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