After starting this snow season with the latest first snow on record, many were left wondering whether things would turn around or if we were destined for a dry winter thanks to the La Niña weather pattern. Well, the season has really turned around in Denver and now we are experiencing the snowiest start to a calendar year on record.
Coming off of a summer and fall with almost no moisture, drought re-developed and deepened rapidly at the end of 2021. The thought of wintertime drought causing big issues was somewhat muted, though. The big-time issues from drought typically come during the summer and fall.
Unfortunately, at the end of December, we saw exactly what winter drought could look like when the Marshall fire erupted. Drought, no matter the time of year, is bad and always worth paying attention to.
We are on quite the pendulum it seems. The beginning of 2021 started with amazing snows and spring rains leading to one of the wettest starts to a year. We quickly swung the other way on the pendulum and dried out leading to the driest ends of the year on record. Now, it seems as if the pendulum is swinging back with a surplus of moisture now existing in our area.
Several Front Range locations are topping the list for the most snow ever during the first seven weeks of a year, including Boulder, Denver/Central Park and Denver International Airport. Other locations, like Fort Collins and Castle Rock, have risen to a top 10 spot for most snowy starts to a year.
The Denver/Central Park weather reporting station has received 28.4 inches of snow since Jan. 1. The last time it was close to being this snowy at the beginning of a year was back in 1948, when 27.3 inches of snow fell during the same time frame. For Boulder, 1948 was also their second-place mark when 40.3 inches of snow fell between Jan. 1 and Feb. 17.
All of this snow has melted down into some great liquid for our soils. Drought conditions have greatly improved across the Denver metro. Boulder has almost completely eradicated the drought conditions that have held for months.
While much of the state is still battling drought conditions, those near the northern and central mountains as well as those near Denver have seen some great improvements. So while this is mostly a good news story, the need for more moisture in the near- and long-term is still very much needed.
We are quickly approaching our snowier months of the year, so let’s hope this surplus of moisture continues in Denver, but let’s also hope that the rest of the state can get some of that needed moisture, too.
The way the pendulum tends to swing here in Colorado is amazing. Whether we are talking about drying out or getting excess moisture, we seem to be experiencing many extremes in short amounts of time. Just think about all of the extremes we’ve had in the last two years. Will we swing back to being severely dry soon? Will we continue to receive excessive moisture? What’s the next extreme that will occur, because it’s inevitably coming.
Based on what we know about the changing climate, our extremes — no matter which side of the pendulum we’re on at the time — are getting more extreme, so these trends need to be monitored closely.
The forecast is calling for an arctic blast of air to engulf Denver and the Eastern Plains by the middle of next week and it could bring another round of snow, further adding to the surplus of snow we’ve already seen. The extended three-month forecast calls for our area to experience warmer than normal and drier than normal conditions through April.
Yet we all know that during the spring, it only takes one blizzard or bomb cyclone to really turn things around.
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