Colorado weather: January could end warm, dry trend with increased storm track

After a year where it was easy to feel stuck on a giant hamster wheel, many are ready for a change as we head into 2021. This is true when it comes to Colorado weather too.

Much of the latter half of 2020 featured the same unrelenting theme across the state – warmth and dryness. This repetitive recipe from Mother Nature helped to send Colorado deep into drought. January could help to stop that trend.

The Climate Prediction Center is forecasting January temperatures to end up rather close to the long-term normal in Colorado. The agency’s outlook still leans slightly onto the warm side for the northeastern half of the state, but not by much. The southwestern half of the state falls under what the CPC refers to as “equal chances” for above normal and below normal temperatures.

This is another way for the CPC to reveal that there is not an overly strong warm signal for the month of January. Nine of out 12 months in 2020 ended up well above normal in the temperature department, so a chilly month would be noticeable change.

January just barely falls short of December for being the coldest month of the year in Denver. Normal afternoon highs stay in the low to middle 40s, while typical overnight lows are in the upper 10s. Even if the month were to end up slightly warmer than normal in temperature, it will not feel very warm overall.

One of the main factors that could prevent a large number of warm days is a more active storm track. For the first time since May 2020, the CPC is not highlighting a strong dry signal in Colorado. While the trends indicate that much of the state will see near-normal precipitation, some areas are explicitly projected to have wetter than normal conditions.

Active weather days in the winter tend to be quite chilly, with even colder air being dragged in as storms depart the region. Long range forecast models suggest that Colorado could be impacted by at least one storm system per week in January. This increased storminess would make it hard to string together a lot of unseasonably warm days.

The first opportunity for a storm to impact Colorado comes in the middle of next week.

The normal monthly snowfall for January in Denver is 6.5 inches. An active storm track could yield Denver’s first snowier-than-normal start to a year since 2015. Snow was particularly paltry last January, when less than an inch fell all month long, marking the lowest January snowfall total since 2003.

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