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People cool off in the water at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in Denver, Monday, June 14, 2021. By mid-afternoon, the temperature hit 96 degrees as part of the heat wave sweeping across the western U.S. Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Brittany Peterson
Environment

Denver Just Had Its Third Hottest Summer Ever

And if recent trends are any indication, Coloradans will need to accept the brutal heat as the new summer norm.

The Mile High City just experienced one of its hottest summers ever.

That’s a headline you’ve seen many times in recent years, including in 2020 when Denver had its second warmest summer ever, and again this year, as the city just had its third hottest meteorological summer (June 1 through August 31) on record.

Here are the top five hottest Denver summers based on the average temperature of every day from June through August:

According to data compiled by ClimateCentral, an organization that researches and reports impacts of climate change, Denver now averages 17 more days of 95-degree-plus temperatures each summer than in 1970. Areas along the Western Slope, like Grand Junction, see five more days of intense heat, and Colorado Springs experiences 19 more days of 95-degree temperatures than 40 years ago.

That’s reshaped the top five list of years in Denver with the most days of 95-degree temperatures and up:

At the same time, the average summer temperature for Denver, Colorado Springs, and Grand Junction has dramatically increased. According to ClimateCentral, The average temperature on a summer day in Denver has jumped by 2.6 degrees since 1970. In Colorado Springs, it also warmed by 2.6 degrees, and in Grand Junction, summers are exactly one degree hotter.

Unfortunately, this summer’s scorching temperatures also contributed to a lack of rainfall. Although we had a wet end of winter and beginning of spring, this summer will be Denver’s driest since 1940, thanks to hot conditions the past several weeks. Here are the rain totals for the top five driest summers on record:

The rest of the state has also experienced a lack of precipitation, causing drought conditions to return to some areas in the eastern part of Colorado. Extreme drought conditions remain throughout much of the Western Slope.

Early forecasts suggest Denver will have a typical September in terms of temperature and precipitation. That means we’ll see average temperatures around 63 degrees and about an inch of rain.

But come next summer, Denverites will likely find themselves wondering how to beat the heat again.

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