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Snow removal crews clear the sidewalk next to the Colorado State Capitol on March 14, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Environment

Why Hasn’t Denver Gotten Any Snow Yet?

Severe drought expands in Denver, as the city awaits its latest first snow on record.

Fans of fair weather might be relishing the recent run of sunny November days. But the unusual delay of snow in Denver is somewhat troubling, adding to what has been a notoriously dry year thus far.

Thanks to an inactive weather pattern and weak storms that have passed by, Denver and the surrounding areas have seen little to no beneficial moisture in months. The lack of rain at the end of summer into early fall has bled into the time of year when we typically begin receiving snow. Denver is still awaiting its first sign of powder and the city now has the record for the latest snow ever on record.

Top 5 Latest First Snow Dates in Denver:

  1. 2021 – ???
  2. 1934 – 11/21
  3. 1931 – 11/19
  4. 2006 – 11/17
  5. 1894 – 11/16

There’s no one exact reason as to why Denver has remained dry in recent months. Long-term trends of hotter, drier weather lasting further into fall, coupled with storms that aren’t strong enough to break down weather patterns could be the cause. La Niña conditions—when colder-than-average water near the equator and off the coast of South America is met with stronger eastern winds—have also been developing the last few months, lending another possible explanation for the dry spell. Regardless of the reason, the ground in the Mile High City is drying up and we aren’t getting water to replenish our reservoirs.

Looking back on the beginning of the year through June, Denver was experiencing one of its wettest starts to a year on record. The major blizzard in March played a large part in the sizable increase in moisture, along with the active monsoon season that followed. But once the monsoon disappeared in September, so did most of the moisture.

Since July 1, Denver has picked up just 1.03 inches of precipitation, the city’s driest stretch on record. On average, during that same period of time, the Mile High City would typically receive just over six inches of precipitation, which leaves us with a five-inch deficit of water in the past four months. Denver averages almost 14.5 inches of precipitation annually, so running a deficit of more than five inches is substantial.

Denver was completely drought free as recently as early September, but now, the Mile High City and many surrounding areas are experiencing severe drought conditions. The last time Denver reported one-tenth of an inch of rain on any given day was back on September 13. Even more concerning, the last time Denver reported a quarter inch of rain was way back on June 24.

Through a normal October, Denver should have seen at least five inches of snow. An average of 7.4 inches of powder typically falls on the city each November as well. But with Thanksgiving quickly approaching and no major storms on the horizon, it is unlikely the city reaches anywhere near that number.

There is still time, however, for Denver to pick up its first snow of the season before the month ends. A few pulses of energy should move through Colorado before Thanksgiving, but none of them look super promising as far as their potential to produce snow goes. And once Denver inches past November 21, it will officially be in uncharted territory for snow—or lack thereof.

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