Denver and much of eastern Colorado started out 2021 with severe to exceptional drought covering the region. Thanks to the wet end to winter and beginning of spring, much of eastern Colorado became drought free by the end of May. Since then, it has been hot and rather dry across the Interstate 25 corridor. Drought has re-emerged and is growing quickly.
Moderate drought is covering much of the Denver metro and the eastern Plains with severe to exceptional drought remaining an issue across western Colorado. Our recent period of drought-free conditions in Denver lasted from May to September while drought has been consistently a concern in western portions of the state for the last year and a half. Other than the lack of moisture that has been seen recently, hotter conditions throughout the summer months aided in re-establishing drought conditions across the eastern third of the state.
Temperatures ranged from 1 to 5 degrees above normal from June through September across Colorado. Denver ended summer with an above-average number of 90- and 100-degree days this year, and most cities across the state were challenging heat records and streaks of days with intense heat. As for precipitation, we actually had a beneficial monsoon season this year that aided in bringing much-needed moisture to our mountains but inadequate moisture over long periods of time is leading to drought conditions returning more quickly.
Areas around Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs, Salida and Leadville saw slightly wetter conditions during the summer thanks to the monsoon, but most areas in Colorado did not see the same situation unfold. In fact, the complete opposite occurred in northeast Colorado where they are lacking up to 6-inches of precipitation. This overall lack of rain many areas have seen this summer are why drought conditions are returning.
Here is a look as yearly precipitation totals and the departure from that normal.
Denver – 12.20 inches (-0.30 inches)
Boulder – 19.97 inches (+2.35 inches)
Ft.Collins – 13.77 inches (+0.35 inches)
Castlerock – 15.07 inches (-0.20 inches)
Colorado Springs – 14.10 inches (-0.44 inches)
Although Boulder is sitting ahead of schedule in terms of its yearly accumulated precipitation, much of Boulder is lacking one to two-inches compared to what should have happened in the summer so Boulder has still experienced dry conditions this summer. For areas from Denver to Colorado Springs, although we are not lacking by huge amounts currently, we are heading into the drier season so making up moisture in the next few months will be harder to do.
As winter approaches, autumn rains and winter snows are going to be what we rely on for moisture. By March and April of next year, our next wet season will get going so unless there are some hefty winter storms this year that produce big-time moisture, we may have drought conditions lasting through the remained of this year.
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