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Denver’s snow season – or rather the lack thereof – reaches near record-setting levels

Sunday, May 8th, 2011 4:40pm MDT
Denver's snow season through April 30, 2010.

Denver's snow season thus far is the second worst in the past 122 years. Click the image for a larger view. (Denver Weather Examiner)

Conditions have been tinder dry across the Colorado Front Range in recent months and certainly one of the biggest factors has been the lack of snowfall.  Denver is in fact seeing its second least snowiest snow season on record likely setting the stage for a dangerous fire season ahead.

Through April 30, a mere 21.8 inches of snow has been recorded at Denver’s official monitoring site at Denver International Airport.  This is an astonishing 38.6 inches below normal to this point in the season.  At the end of March the season ranked as the third worst but after receiving only 1.2 inches of snow in April, the situation looks even more dismal.

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Here in Thornton we have fared slightly poorer.  ThorntonWeather.com has recorded 21.2 inches, by far the lowest we have seen at this point in the season since we came into operation nearly five years ago.

Only one other season has seen lower snow totals through the end of April.  That occurred 122 years ago during the 1888 to 1889 season when 21.3 inches was recorded.  That also ended up being that season’s final total as only a trace was recorded for the rest of the season.

While the plains of Colorado have seen little snow, that hasn’t been the case in the high country.  The Colorado Rocky Mountains have been inundated with six of the eight basins reporting from 112 to 165 percent of normal snow water equivalent.

Severe drought conditions have settled in on the eastern half of Colorado with the far southeastern corner of the state event reaching extreme drought levels.  NOAA’s drought outlook for the period through July predicts that the drought will continue or intensify.

This situation is cause for alarm for anyone on the plains or in the Colorado mountains east of the Continental Divide.  There have already been several significant fires in the foothills and on the far eastern plains.  Without some significant precipitation, Colorado may find itself seeing a very dangerous and damaging fire season ahead.

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