February 3, 2019
Denver’s been locked into a consistently dry and mild pattern for over two years running
With only 6.2 inches of snow in January, Denver just completed its 25th-straight month with below average snowfall, the longest such streak in recorded history.
Denver’s official records date back to 1882, and an analysis of climatological records shows that there’s been no such previous stretch in recorded history.
KDVR/KWGN meteorologist Matt Makens first uncovered this remarkable bit of weather trivia.
The bigger question is why, and it may not be as obvious as a warming climate, though that may have played a role in consistently suppressing snow totals for such a long period of time.
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Within the 25-month stretch of below average snowfall, beginning in January of 2017, 16 of 24 months (and one tie) have featured above average temperatures, and while that’s undoubtedly contributed to the lack of snowfall, it probably doesn’t tell the story as much as the remarkably dry period, especially during the typically busiest snow months of the year. Nineteen of the 25 months within this period featured below average precipitation, including each of the five snowiest months on average within this timeframe: March, April, December, February and November, in order.
Sure, that’s a lot of numbers, but they add up to one firm conclusion: Denver’s been locked into a consistently dry and mild pattern for over two years running.
Statewide, Colorado remains in a persistent drought, though the mountains have enjoyed a snowy start to the winter season. That may improve somewhat this spring with healthy season-to-date snowpack in the mountains, but reservoir levels, particularly in the hardest-hit southern and western parts of the state, remain in trouble.
Part of the snow deficit, however, may also be attributed to the official climate observation site being located at Denver International Airport, which has kept Denver’s official records since only 2008. The airport’s location approximately 20 miles northeast of downtown Denver might seem fairly trivial compared to previous official climate record keeping at Stapleton Airport and, before that, two downtown locations. But, consider this: Last Monday’s surprise snowfall produced only 1.3 inches of snow at DIA, while most parts of the downtown and metro area received at least six inches. It was enough of a difference to keep Denver’s official January total at 6.2 inches, a hair below Denver’s 6.6-inch January monthly average.
That said, there’s virtually no set of logistics that can shake off this unprecedented snow-less stretch. If you took the snowfall statistics from Denver’s more centrally located Stapleton Airport climate site, for example, only two of the 25 months would’ve featured above average snowfall: January 2017 and January 2019, which still would’ve left Denver in a record-setting 23-month snow deficit. More so, the last two winters, 2016-17 and 2017-18, both rank among the top-five snow-less winters on record.
There may be some hope for snow-lovers on the horizon, though: There are at least a few signs that this month, and maybe this spring, may finally help break this remarkable stretch of below average snowfall.
Chris Bianchi is a meteorologist for WeatherNation TV.