Denver notches its 8th driest year in 149 years of record keeping

With no more rain or snow expected in these final two days of 2020, Denver is going to officially finish with its eighth driest year in recorded weather history.

Only 8.74 inches of precipitation was observed at the Denver International Airport in 2020 when combining rain and melted snow. That is only about 60% of the normal yearly precipitation total, which sits at more than 14 inches annually.

This is just one of 10 years since 1872 that Denver has failed to tally at least 9 inches of precipitation in an entire calendar year. Four of those 10 occurrences have come since 2000.

While DIA can sometimes be an “unfair” representation of Denver weather, in 2020 it was in line with the rule and not the exception. The centrally located Stapleton Airport observation site will notch its fifth driest year in history, while Wheat Ridge is also headed for its driest year since 2002.

This year was off to a much more promising start when it came to water. Denver carried a wetter-than-normal trend from 2019 all the way into the spring. After the Front Range and urban corridor saw a notable soaking from a mid-April rain storm, the faucet rapidly started to shut off.

The Mile High City relies on large scale spring storms and frequent summer thunderstorms for the vast majority of its annual precipitation. In fact, more than two thirds of Denver’s yearly moisture typically falls between April and August. In 2020, all five of these main moisture months were drier than normal, and most of them were by a very wide margin.

This all comes just two years after the Mile High City recorded another top-10 dry year. However, in 2018, precipitation was more plentiful in other parts of the metro area. Rain and snow seemed to elude DIA more frequently, resulting in the sixth driest year on record, while it was only the 13th driest at Stapleton.

The paltry precipitation in the past year has not been limited to the Denver area. Widespread dryness has been a statewide problem, causing Colorado to plunge into one of its worst droughts in a long time.

As we get set to close the books on 2020, hopefully Mother Nature can help us welcome back more persistent and plentiful wet weather in 2021.

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