DENVER — Yes, it's true. And it's perhaps the best statistic to highlight the magnitude of the ongoing Front Range drought.
Over the final six months of 2021, Denver saw less precipitation (rain and snowfall equivalent) than Death Valley, California – home of the hottest and driest national park in the United States.
That's based on statistics at Denver International Airport, Denver's official climate site, and National Weather Service records in Death Valley.
This past year marked the first time on record that Denver has seen less precipitation than Death Valley over the final six months of a year. Over that July-through-December timespan, Denver averages a little more than 7 inches of precipitation, while Death Valley averages less than 1.
Official climate records in Death Valley date back to 1911, making this comparison valid for 110 years.
This should highlight the extreme extent of the Front Range drought. Denver's 1.2 inches of total precipitation over six months is drier than most desert locations. Denver essentially turned into a desert for the back half of 2021.
This, of course, contributed to the horrific wildfire that unleashed unprecedented devastation last week. The lack of recent moisture kept the ground bone dry deep into the normally drier winter months, and a windstorm last Thursday allowed the Marshall Fire to rapidly spread through parched grasses and open spaces.
While the past few months have been exceptionally dry, a New Year's Eve snowstorm brought the Front Range some meaningful snowfall. More snow is likely Wednesday night, which should help mitigate (but not eliminate) short-term fire concerns.
After a summer and fall that was drier than perhaps the driest place in the country, it'll take a lot more moisture to get us out of this historic drought.
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