Seattle is a coastal seaport city and the seat of King County, in the U.S. state of Washington. With an estimated 634,535 residents as of 2012, Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest region of North America and one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States.
The Seattle metropolitan area of around 3.5 million inhabitants is the 15th largest metropolitan area in the United States. The city is situated on a narrow isthmus between Puget Sound (an inlet of the Pacific Ocean) and Lake Washington, about 100 miles (160 km) south of the Canada–United States border. A major gateway for trade with Asia, Seattle is the 8th largest port in the United States and 9th largest in North America in terms of container handling.
The Seattle area had been inhabited by Native Americans for at least 4,000 years before the first permanent European settlers.Arthur A. Denny and his group of travelers, subsequently known as the Denny Party, arrived at Alki Point on November 13, 1851. The settlement was moved to its current site and named “Seattle” in 1853, after Chief Si’ahl of the local Duwamish and Suquamishtribes.
Logging was Seattle’s first major industry, but by the late 19th century the city had become a commercial and shipbuilding center as a gateway to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. By 1910, Seattle was one of the 25 largest cities in the country. However, the Great Depression severely damaged the city’s economy. Growth returned during and after World War II, due partially to the local Boeing company, which established Seattle as a center for aircraft manufacturing.
The city developed as a technology center in the 1980s, with companies like Amazon.com, Microsoft and T-Mobile US based in the area. The stream of new software, biotechnology, and Internet companies led to an economic revival, which increased the city’s population by almost 50,000 between 1990 and 2000. Since then, Seattle has become a hub for “green” industry and a model for sustainable development.
Seattle has a noteworthy musical history. From 1918 to 1951, there were nearly two dozen jazz nightclubs along Jackson Street from the current Chinatown/International District to the Central District.
The jazz scene developed the early careers of Ray Charles,Quincy Jones, Ernestine Anderson and others. Seattle is also the birthplace of rock legend Jimi Hendrix and the alternative rock music style known as grunge, which was made famous by local groups Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sound garden, and Alice in Chains. Seattle is also famous for its hip hop artists, such as rappers Sir Mix-a-Lot, Blue Scholars, Sadistik, Grieves and Macklemore.
Seattle is historically a very diverse city and multiculturalism is seen as a virtue. Discrimination based on race is considered extremely offensive.
Locals have long talked of the “Seattle Freeze,” referring to the cold politeness of residents. The theory is that while locals are very polite and warm on first interaction, most residents are also very reserved and interactions rarely lead to real acts of friendship (an invitation to dinner, personal conversations, etc.). For visitors it is best to treat this as shyness–expect to make all the “first moves” to meet people here.
Residents’ shyness also extends to anger and annoyance. Locals often make fun of themselves for their passive aggressive culture, where even in the most upsetting circumstances they will retain their polite nature.
While Seattle is well known for its rain and dark, gloomy skies, it may surprise many how pleasant the weather can be, particularly during the summer months. November through March brings the worse of the unpleasant weather, with cool temperatures, heavy cloud cover and rain failing on most days. The short days and low angle of the sun during these months only add to the dark, gloomy feeling which is very unpleasant and depressing for some.
The coldest month is January with average lows in the mid to upper 30s (about 3°C), with temperatures occasionally dropping below freezing. Most precipitation falls as a light rain, or a drizzle, with snow falling in the city only occasionally (though the surrounding mountains receive heaps and heaps of snow). Most cold-weather systems come from the north, which generally results in dry weather when temperatures are below freezing. Nonetheless, Seattle is hit by a major snow storm about every 2-3 years on average, which can paralyze the city’s transportation network (hills and ill-prepared drivers are two commonly cited reasons for such). November is the wettest month, sometimes bringing in fairly intense wind and rain storms, which are often classified as a “Pineapple Express”. The record low for Seattle is 0°F (-18°C)
In contrast, the weather can be quite pleasant from April to October, with exceptionally nice weather in July and August where highs average in the upper 70s and rain is very uncommon. Skies are mostly clear and smog-free, though mornings can produce an on-shore flow resulting in low clouds and fog which typically burns off by mid-day. The northern latitude (47.6 degrees) results in long days with a sunset of 9:11 p.m. on solstice. Summer heat waves can push temperatures into the 80s and 90s, and despite only low to moderate humidity, they can be uncomfortable as air-conditioning is not always prevalent in the city. The record high for Seattle is 103°F (39°C).
As one might expect, the transitioning seasons of spring and fall can be a mixed bag, though as a rule, the closer to summer brings the greater chance of warm temperatures and clear skies. Winds are heavier in the winter than summer, but overall Seattle is not a windy city, adding to the comfort during the summer. The region does feature micro-climates due to the number of hills, mountains, and bodies of water, which can result in significantly different weather conditions over short distances. This also makes forecasting difficult and sometimes unreliable.