Olympia: Capital of cold

OLYMPIA, Wash.--  You see it every morning that you tune into Q13 News This Morning -- and if you live in the South Sound you certainly feel it every morning. The Capital City gets a little colder, a little frostier, and a little foggier than other surrounding areas in the Puget Sound region.

On average, Olympia is colder than cities like Tacoma and Seattle in the winter and a bit warmer in the summer, too. The coldest morning every in Olympia was -8 degrees back in 1979. That's 7 degrees colder than the coldest morning ever for Seattle.

It's a bit of a mystery exactly why it's so much colder than other nearby spots, but a lot of factors likely play into this unique micro climate that is the coldest in Western Washington.

First is the location. Olympia is located at the bottom of a topographic bowl known as the Nisqually Basin. Cold air sinks, and the coldest air rolls off the nearby mountains and hillsides and settles into the bottom of that bowl.

Second is the Puget Sound itself. There's less water to help out Olympia. Most other cities along I-5 have water to the west, and that water is about 50 degrees year-round. Water hangs onto heat better than air does, and the narrow inlets to the north of the Capital City don't really help warm them up all that much.

The location where you measure temps can also be a big factor, and the Olympia Airport is pretty far away from the Puget Sound. It's where that blue dot is south of Tumwater. There's also some slightly higher terrain in the form of a few hills between between the airport and Puget Sound, so some of the cold air could bottle up close to the airport location.

Regardless of the cause, a few degrees colder can mean a whole lot different weather than surrounding roads. Icier roads, more fog that forms earlier and lasts longer, even that pocket of cold air in the South Sound can also mean more snow to that end.

So, being the coldest spot in Western Washington can be a badge of honor for the folks who brave it every winter.

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