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With New Study Showing Extreme Rainstorms in Seattle Area Grew by 30 Percent Since 2003, Mayor Durkan Will Highlight Innovative City Initiatives to Combat Climate Change

SEATTLE (Jan 29) — With a new study showing extreme rainstorms in the Seattle area grew by 30 percent since 2003, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan will highlight City initiatives to make Seattle more resilient to the impact of climate change. In the upcoming days, Mayor Durkan will meet with community members and community leaders to highlight several innovative projects to combat climate change, including new electric vehicle charging stations, Harborview Medical Center’s new solar panel installation, and Seattle Municipal Tower’s electric vehicle parking area.

On the heels of the wettest four-year period in Seattle’s history, a new study commissioned by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) found that the strength of extreme rainstorms in Seattle has increased dramatically since 2003. Rainfall patterns across the city show that these extreme weather events have grown 30 percent stronger over the past 15 years, an expected impact of climate change. The new SPU study draws from data collected by 17 SPU-owned rain gauges and from regional observations taken by the National Weather Service (NWS).

“Cities don’t have the luxury of climate denial and cannot wait for federal leaders to embrace science. The effect of inaction is already at our doorstep,” said Mayor Durkan. “Our City is preparing for our new reality while we work to cut emissions and prevent the catastrophic impacts of climate change. Seattle will continue to lead on climate action and fostering our green energy economy. We are electrifying our fleet, implementing strong building efficiency standards, and partnering for improved resilience planning. But there is still more to do.”

The findings of SPU’s technical memorandum are consistent with climate change research, which suggests that extreme rainfall associated with atmospheric rivers has intensified and will continue to intensify over the course of this century. The new rainfall data will allow Seattle to adapt its drainage infrastructure — including combined sewer overflow reduction projects and green stormwater infrastructure projects — with the best climate science available. The new study also details the City’s precipitation microclimates, including Seattle’s wettest and driest neighborhoods, which shift seasonally. SPU analysis suggests that the influence of Seattle’s hilly terrain has been magnified by climate change.

“We have to be a resilient city, and we also have to act now to prevent the worst impacts of climate change,” said Jessica Finn Coven, director of the OSE. “Seattle is committed to meeting our obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement by building a climate-friendly city, because it is our children who will pay the price if we don’t act.”

Logan Johnson, Meteorologist-in-Charge at the NWS Seattle Weather Forecast Office said, “Seattle Public Utilities has been a reliable partner, monitoring rainfall and communicating with our office during extreme events. This study underscores the need to better prepare for flooding, not only in Seattle, but throughout Western Washington.”

One of Mayor Durkan’s first actions as Mayor was signing the Chicago Climate Charter, a first-of-its-kind international charter on climate change. By signing the Charter, Seattle and other cities are sending a clear signal that their commitment to climate action is unwavering even in the face of inaction by President Trump and his administration. Learn more about Seattle’s climate action from Seattle Public Utilities and the Office of Sustainability and Environment.