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Three hundred days of sunshine is great and all, but it’s starting to come with some drawbacks. Since November, Denver temperatures have been well above average, while the amount of snowfall has been way down compared to recent years. That’s allowed for some unexpected afternoon park days, but it is somewhat problematic when you realize we are coming off a year of extreme drought.
We didn’t get much help in January, which was abnormally warm and dry. Denver is down about seven inches of snow from average and temperatures for the year are already higher than usual. Mediocre and under-preforming storms and odd weather patterns are to blame, but not all hope is lost for the remainder of winter.
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If we are to believe the wisdom of Punxsutawney Phil—who earlier this week predicted six more weeks of winter—as well as the meteorologists who do in-depth studies of weather patterns, our luck might be about to change. Way up near the Arctic Circle is a rapidly flowing stream of air called the Polar Vortex. It can have major implications for weather downstream, and thanks to some recent stratospheric warming—or simply a warming trend and a lessening of winds in that area—the cold air that’s been circling around up there is probably headed our way.
That expected rush of cold air has the folks at the Climate Prediction Center forecasting below average temperatures and slightly above normal precipitation trends through the month of February. In other words, the streak of super warm days along the Front Range is about to come to an end.
Denver usually gets about eight inches of snow each February, with temperatures typically hovering around 32.5 degrees. If all the forecasts pan out, we should see at least average snowfall this month. It will also likely end up being a little chillier than normal. As alluded to earlier, though, weather patterns have been a bit odd this year. Storms have fizzled out right before reaching Colorado more than usual, which could continue.
In related news, Colorado’s snowpack is way below where it should be for this time of the year: It’s currently sitting at 80 percent of normal. While both recent and coming storms may help a bit, it would take a parade of wet weather to overcome the deficit. On top of that, the newest drought monitor map shows that 100 percent of the state is in a moderate drought. Even worse, 70 percent of Colorado, including the metro Denver area, is in extreme drought, and close to a quarter of the state is experiencing exceptional drought.
So, what we’re saying is that we’ve got Frank Sinatra’s famed tune, “Let It Snow,” on repeat.