With fog looming hundreds of feet deep over the Puget Sound region, a forecast for showers to end the week and another wet winter ahead of us, it seems a fitting time for Seattle to be declared the nation’s “gloomiest city.”

While our own experiences of living here might confirm that anecdotally, the data team at Best Places has attempted to quantify it. They created a “gloom index” that ranks the country’s 50 largest cities and their metropolitan areas on three key environmental factors for the months of November, December and January:

  • Percentage of cloud cover
  • Average hours of daylight
  • Days with precipitation

“Topping our list at #1 and #2 are Seattle and Portland — both famous for their coffee shops and the ’90s ‘grunge’ music genre that reflects this oft-oppressive feeling of Gloom,” Best Places said in a statement this week.

Showers are predicted to start Thursday night and last into Friday, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle.

Next week starts with a wet Sunday, followed by a chance of showers Monday and Tuesday.

Statistically, Nov. 19 (Tuesday) is the most common day of the year for rain to hit Seattle, according to the weather service. It has rained on that day 72% of the years since 1945, and it’s looking likely for this year as well.

Other metropolitan areas that enjoy their fair share of gloom include Niagara Falls, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Detroit.


No Alaska cities were included in the gloom rankings because, while Juneau and Ketchikan are gray as all get-out in the winter, they aren’t among the nation’s 50 largest cities. Meanwhile, some Alaska cities, such as Fairbanks, have less winter cloud cover than might be expected, the authors of the list noted.

For people living in gloomy places, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — which can cause depression, lethargy and sleep problems — can be a challenge.

Nearly everyone living here near Latitude 47 experiences at least a little seasonal depression that’s tied to changes in seasons and, more specifically, the amount of light to which we are exposed, said Seattle psychiatrist David Avery, who for 25 years has studied circadian rhythms (our “body clock”), the body’s temperature regulation and light therapy in the treatment of SAD.

By December, Pacific Northwest residents see fewer than 8½ hours of daylight per day. And what little we get is often shrouded by clouds.

Avery and sleep experts recommend taking steps to counteract the gloom, such as exercise and light therapy.

How to cope as our days get dark in fall and winter