Not to sound too doomsday-ish here, but there is a lot going on with Denver’s weather right now that is not “normal.” If this is a foreshadowing of the future, you may want to take note, because it could turn into what we expect in terms of our seasonal weather.
Denver is chock-full of weather extremes. We live in one of the most interesting climates and geographic locations there is. And not just in this region or this country. Denver’s weather is very unique and talked about globally at times.
The fact that the weather here can be so extreme makes the exterior of a heavily-titled weather article seem almost common and therefore insignificant. Since our weather can be extreme in multiple ways (like tornadoes, blizzards, triple-digit heat, wind, drought), the slightest shift in what is “normal” means something much different for our weather outliers that are already on the extreme side.
Denver just had its third-driest, second-warmest and tied-for-least-snowiest meteorological fall (September-November) on record. Additionally, we are on one of the longest streaks ever for consecutive days without measurable snow and we have gone more than a week past the top-ranking latest snow date — and are still waiting.
The time between June 1 and Nov. 30 has been Denver’s driest and warmest on record. And we just ended one of our warmest Novembers on record.
This has a lot of people questioning the cause. Is it climate change? Is it the location of the reporting station? Is it just the way it is this year? Is it all just heightened drama from the media?
You can make that decision on your own but here are the weather stats that are worth knowing right now.
Since June 1
Denver has never been as dry as it was this year between June 1 and Nov. 30
2021: 1.88 inches
1939: 2.46 inches
1934: 2.56 inches
1879: 2.76 inches
1917: 2.81 inches
Denver has never been as warm as it was this year between June 1 and Nov. 30
2021: 65.5 degrees
1933: 65 degrees
2012: 64.7 degrees
2016: 64.6 degrees
1934: 64.3 degrees
Warmest meteorological falls on record
1933: 57.1 degrees
2021: 56.3 degrees
2016: 56.3 degrees
1981: 55.6 degrees
1963: 55.2 degrees
Driest meteorological falls on record
2003: 0.39 inches
1879: 0.42 inches
2021: 0.43 inches
1944: 0.49 inches
1884: 0.53 inches
Least-snowy meteorological falls on record
1884: 0.3 inches
1899: 0.8 inches
1885: 0.8 inches
Longest snowless streaks
235 days: March 5-Oct. 25, 1887
227 days: March 27-Nov. 8, 1888
225 days: April 22-???, 2021
224 days: March 23-Nov. 2, 1889
219 days: April 5-Nov. 9, 1886
Latest date of first snow
1934: Nov. 21
1931: Nov. 19
2016: Nov. 17
1894: Nov. 16
Warmest November on record
1949: 50.9 degrees
1939: 47.2 degrees
2021: 46.3 degrees
1933: 46.2 degrees
1914: 46.2 degrees
Similarly, Boulder, Fort Collins and Dillon all ranked in the top 5 for warmest Novembers on record.
With the lack of rain and snow coupled with warm temperatures recently, it’s no wonder drought is back across all of Colorado.
In the last 6 months, Denver has seen a 3-class degradation of drought status. We went from having no drought in August to being encompassed by severe drought conditions. Some areas of the Eastern Plains have suffered a 4-class degradation in the same period. There are only 5 classes of drought labeled on the USDA drought monitor map, so a 3- and 4-class drop is significant. Especially in a 3-month timeframe.
On a larger scale. Denver’s fall climate is warming. According to data from ClimateCentral, Denver’s average fall temperature has warmed by 2.6 degrees since 1970 and the city sees an average of 12 more days per year with above-normal temperatures. A similar trend has been noted for the spring and summer seasons in Denver.
When looking at the long-term forecast data, Denver is expected to get normal precipitation during the month of December, which is 8 inches of snow and 0.35 inches of liquid precipitation. The city can expect slightly warmer than normal temperatures on average for the month.
In the next three months, which are the months of meteorological winter, Denver is forecast to have average precipitation, which means we can expect just over an inch of liquid precipitation with about 22 inches of snow falling during that three-month period.
We can only hope to receive average precipitation, but with how this fall has ended and with the next three months being insignificant moisture producers for the year, the possibility of us making up our current deficit is slim.
Should this pattern continue through the winter and into spring, we’ll have to prepare for water supply shortages (which are already limited) and a potentially active fire season. There is plenty of time to make up our deficits, and as we saw last spring, one big blizzard could come and eradicate some of these issues.
But climbing up from the low point in which we are right now will prove to be a difficult task.
Andy Stein is a freelance meteorologist.
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