Colorado’s top weather and climate events of 2020 (2022)

The year has finally come to a close, and I think we can all agree that we don't feel bad shutting the door on 2020. While we welcome 2021, let's look back at some of the most memorable weather and climate events that occurred in Colorado this past year.

Boulder Snow
On October 10, 2019 3.8 inches of snow fell in Boulder. Not anything memorable, except it started off Boulder's snowiest season on record. On April 17, 2020 16.9 inches of snow accumulated, bringing Boulder's seasonal total to a whopping 152 inches. This smashed the previous record of 143.2 inches set back in 1909. The long-term average snowfall for a season is 88.3 inches. 2019-2020 was 63 inches over the average!

Colorado’s top weather and climate events of 2020 (1)

June Derecho
Derechos are commonly found in the midwestern to eastern states. While one of the most memorable weather events in the country this year will be the August derecho that wreaked havoc across Iowa and Illinois, there is something quite notable about the June derecho that started in Utah and swept across Colorado. This is the only derecho in modern records to impact Colorado. Damaging wind reports spanned the entire state. In fact, 91 severe wind reports were logged (58mph or greater), beating the state's previous record of 30 severe wind reports on May 22, 2006.

Colorado’s top weather and climate events of 2020 (2)

Maximum wind gusts for the state ranged from the 40s to the 70s. The highest wind gust in the state reported for the day was 110mph at Winter Park. Thankfully damage was pretty minimal. But the extreme winds as the storm swept through will remain in our memories for a long time!

Akron Wind Event
Only three days after the derecho, and unrelated to that storm, a thunderstorm with severe straight-line winds devastated the small town of Akron, in northeast CO.

(Video) 2020: The Year Of Climate Extremes | Nightly News Films

Colorado’s top weather and climate events of 2020 (3)

Here are more images captured by Kiara Janae from this event: https://twitter.com/kiarajanaeguy3/status/1270348799102218240

Akron, Colorado had a horrible microburst last night that ruined our beautiful little town. @9NEWS pic.twitter.com/O6L9Tqtyeh

— 𝙺𝚒𝚊𝚛𝚊 𝙹𝚊𝚗𝚊𝚎 🌻 (@kiarajanaeguy3) June 9, 2020

Wind gusts topped 100 mph in northeast CO. The big surprise is that the wind speeds and the damage were not from a tornado, but from straight line winds. Not only did the winds down power lines and trees, it damaged a multitude of farming equipment and a hanger at a local airport.

Record Evaporation
Early June was a rough time for the Eastern Plains. Following a dry winter and spring, croplands were further stressed by a major evaporative event. The event had all the characteristics of a flash drought, with the exception that the region was already in drought at the time. Evaporative demand is a totally normal part of our summers. With a combination of winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures, it's the amount of water that the atmosphere wants to take from the surface. But what we saw in June was off-the-charts high. Winds across the central plains of the U.S. were extreme. Temperatures were hot, in the upper 90s, quite impressive for early June. What little moisture might have remained in the soils at the start of summer was quickly stripped away.

Hot August
August 2020 was the hottest August on record for Colorado, dating back to 1895. Warmer than average months are pretty common these days. But to have the warmest on record, during the hottest time of the year, definitely leaves its mark!

(Video) Weather and Climate Perspectives on the Historic 2020 Colorado Drought and Wildfires

The statewide average temperature for August (taking into account all the maximum and minimum temperatures for all locations around the state) is 66°F. August 2020 clocked in at 69.9°F, almost 4° warmer than average. A total of 559 daily maximum temperature records were broken around the state during the month, and 9 monthly records were broken. A high elevation station, Middle Creek, recorded its highest temperature in its history, 85°F on August 2, 2020 and then broke that record on August 4 with 87°F.

Colorado’s top weather and climate events of 2020 (4)

100° to Snow?!
In a month that typically transitions us from summer to fall, September 2020 gave us all a bit of weather whiplash. Labor day weekend, September 5-7, temperatures across the Front Range urban corridor and Eastern Plains topped out in the upper 90s and low 100s. On September 6, 2020 the La Junta Municipal Airport recorded a 108°, the hottest September temperature ever reported in Colorado.

A strange word was in the forecast – snow. Many Front Range locations hadn't seen a snow event occur in September in the 21st century. Surely it couldn't be possible with this summer heat? But the forecast panned out. On September 9-10 snow fell across the entire state. Widespread 2-6 inches across the lower elevations with 8-18 inches over the higher elevations. Monte Vista, located in the San Luis Valley, received a whopping 14 inches of snow.

The most notable record from this event is the short time period between a 100° day and measurable snowfall. Three stations in the country, one in South Dakota and two in Colorado, set the national record for the shortest period between the two extremes. At La Junta: 101° on Sept. 7, 3.4" of snow on Sept. 9; At Ordway: 104° on Sept. 7, 3.9" of snow on Sept. 9.

You can read more about this wild week of weather we had here.

(Video) Colorado weather in-depth: Explaining our severe weather patterns

Drought
The year started off promising, with snowpack heading in the right direction. In fact, most mountain areas received near average peak snowpack by early April. Unfortunately, April moisture quickly shut off and dry conditions dominated the rest of the year.

Colorado’s top weather and climate events of 2020 (5)

At the beginning of January, 50% of the state was in a drought category, according the U.S. Drought Monitor. But no part of the state was experiencing the worst drought categories (D3, extreme drought, and D4, exceptional drought). The December 29 map shows 100% of the state in drought, over 75% in the D3 or worse categories, and over 25% in the worst category, D4. This is the first time since the 2012 drought that the entire state has experienced drought conditions. And unfortunately, although considered very rare (a 1-in-50 to 1-in-100 year event), our state has seen D4 conditions 4 times since the turn of the century.

The biggest ingredients to drive the severity of this drought? 1) early meltout of snowpack, dry spring, very hot summer, no monsoon moisture, warm and dry fall. Let's keep our fingers crossed that our state recovers sooner rather than later from this extreme drought.

Historic Wildfire Season
As drought conditions quickly expanded across the state in the summer, one impact we normally expect surprisingly didn't show up. Our previous drought years (2002, 2012, 2018) were coupled with large and devastating wildfires early in the summer. But June 2020 passed with almost no activity. Then July passed quietly as well. July 31, the Pine Gulch Fire in western CO started. Shortly after, the Grizzly Creek Fire started (and shut down I-70 for 2 weeks) near Glenwood Canyon and the Cameron Peak Fire started in northern CO.

What would soon become apparent is that this wildfire season would be one that Colorado had never experienced before. Instead of June and July being the most active wildfire months, instead September and October would be. Prior to 2020, the largest wildfire in the state's history was the Hayman Fire in 2002 (at over 130,000 acres). And it seemed impossible our state could possibly see a wildfire top out over 200,000 acres.

(Video) WxTalk Webinar Special: Top Ten Weather Events in 2021

Colorado’s top weather and climate events of 2020 (6)

But as the wildfire "season" came to a close, some tragic new records came forward. Three wildfires, Pine Gulch, Cameron Peak, and East Troublesome would grow larger than the previous state record. The Cameron Peak Fire would become the state's largest on record at 203,000 acres. And East Troublesome Fire would come close, with 193,000 acres. It also holds the daunting title of being the only known fire to jump over the Continental Divide.

A Chilly Take
Despite the heat and drought, we have seen some notable cold events this fall and winter. In late October, 32 monthly records of coldest minimum temperature were broken in Colorado. Hebron, a CoAgMET station located in the frigid valley of North Park, reported a low temperature of -33°F on October 27. This is the coldest October temperature ever recorded in the state.

Cold December temperatures made headlines as well. On December 30, Antero Reservoir, located in the chilly valley of South Park, recorded a -50°F low temperature. It not only ties the record for Colorado's coldest December temperature, it's also the coldest temperature for 2020 over the entire Contiguous U.S.

The -50F reported at Antero Reservoir ties for the 4th coldest reading observed there since records started in 1961. That's still 11 degrees shy of the all time coldest temperature ever recorded in Colorado. #COwx https://t.co/OduF2yKsBK pic.twitter.com/P8yrU7G3FD

— NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) December 30, 2020

While we don't know for sure what 2021 will bring, one thing is for certain - we should always be prepared for wild weather and crazy climate extremes in Colorado.

(Video) EVERY climate change news event in 2020

Happy New Year!

FAQs

What are 2 big factors that affect Colorado climate? ›

Colorado's mid latitude and mid continental position, coupled with its rugged topography and high elevations create highly variable seasonal and daily temperatures throughout the state.

How is Colorado affected by climate change? ›

Climate Change is Water Change

Current climate models project that Colorado will warm by 2.5°F by 2025 and 4°F by 2050. Summers are likely to warm more than winters. Warmer temperatures will affect evaporation rates in our rivers, streams and reservoirs, perhaps making less water available for beneficial use.

What are the 5 causes of weather? ›

Weather is made up of six main components. These are temperature, atmospheric pressure, cloud formation, wind, humidity and rain. A small change to any of these conditions can create a different weather pattern.

Is Colorado safe from climate change? ›

Colorado faces a lower threat level from extreme heat than most states. Still, heat wave days are projected to jump from about 10 a year to nearly 50 a year by 2050. Across most of the country, average temperatures have increased at a rate of about 0.13°F (0.07°C) per decade since 1910.

Where is best climate in Colorado? ›

1. Lamar. The warmest place in Colorado is a city called Lamar, a small town located 209 miles southwest of Denver, due east of Pueblo. In 2019, it broke the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded in Colorado climbing to 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

Where is it 70 degrees year round in the United States? ›

While temperatures fluctuate throughout the year in most U.S. states, there are some that see averages around 70-degree weather year-round. These states include Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Is Colorado safe from drought? ›

With its semiarid conditions, drought is a natural part of the Colorado climate, and no portion of the State is immune from drought conditions.

Will Colorado become a desert? ›

Colorado, Utah and Wyoming could be as dry as Arizona in the future, study says. A new study finds that the upper Colorado River basin is drying out due to climate change. This means in the future, parts of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming could more closely resemble Arizona and the desert Southwest.

What is an environmental problem in Colorado? ›

Colorado suffers from a serious and growing air quality problem, failing year after year to meet federal standards for air that's healthy and safe to breathe. That needs to change. Haze over Rocky Mountain National Park. Air pollution harms human health and wildlife and damages national parks.

What does 40% chance of rain mean in the weather? ›

If a forecast for a given county says that there is a 40% chance of rain this afternoon, then there is a 40% chance of rain at any point in the county from noon to 6 p.m. local time.

How does climate change affect human health? ›

Climate change increases the risk of illness through increasing temperature, more frequent heavy rains and runoff, and the effects of storms. Health impacts may include gastrointestinal illness like diarrhea, effects on the body's nervous and respiratory systems, or liver and kidney damage.

Is Colorado getting hotter? ›

Temperatures here have risen about 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the beginning of the 20th century, and warming has occurred in all four seasons with very hot days (95 degrees and warmer) occurring above average since 2000.

What part of Colorado is in drought? ›

The state's drought situation is better than it was a year ago, although the San Luis Valley and a small portion of northwestern Colorado are still in severe drought. All of those factors contribute to the outlook for wildfires.

Which states will be most impacted by climate change? ›

California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and Washington are expected to experience all five major climate change categories over the next few decades. Not surprisingly, all of those states also have Climate Change Risk Index scores higher than the overall U.S. average.

What is the coldest city in Colorado? ›

Little unincorporated Maybell, Colorado sits on top of the list of coldest temps ever recorded in our state. Maybell got down to -61 degrees on February 1st of 1985.

Is Colorado a good state to live? ›

This place is considered one of the best places to live in the United States. Colorado is home to 498,879 people. It is the 21st most populated state in the United State; and the only beautiful mountain state.

Where is the cheapest warm place to live? ›

Check out our list of the 20 best warm places to live with a low cost of living in the United States.
  • Phoenix, Arizona. ...
  • Yuma, Arizona. ...
  • El Paso, Texas. ...
  • Lake Charles, Louisiana. ...
  • Roswell, New Mexico. ...
  • Port Charlotte, Florida. ...
  • Grand Prairie, Texas. ...
  • Bella Vista, Arkansas.

What state has no snow? ›

According to the NWS analysis, the only three states without snow cover were Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

What is the healthiest climate to live in? ›

Take a tour through a few of the top spots to find out.
  • Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula. First up on the list in Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula, one of National Geographic's famous Blue Zones. ...
  • Sardinia. ...
  • Vilcabamba, Ecuador. ...
  • Volcan, Panama. ...
  • New Zealand.
18 Feb 2015

Is Colorado a good place to move for climate change? ›

10. Denver, Colorado. Rounding out our list of the best cities for climate change is the Mile High City. Though Denver residents can expect an average of 33 days of extreme heat by 2050, its lack of humidity isn't projected to change over the coming decades.

What states have no drought? ›

All of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Illinois, and Indiana are in drought. Drought and/or abnormally dry conditions affect some or all of most states—only Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine have been spared.

Will Denver be affected by climate change? ›

A large range of possible changes are projected for Colorado's climate. Most experts agree that warming will occur in Denver and in our mountain watersheds.

Does Colorado have a water problem? ›

The reservoirs on the Colorado River, which starts in the mountains of Colorado and supplies more than 40 million people in the West with water, have hit critically low levels in the last year. The emergency has prompted the federal government to step in and demand the use of less Colorado River water.

How long will the Colorado River last? ›

Water resource officials say some of the reservoirs fed by the river will never be full again. Climate change will likely decrease the river's flow by 5 to 20 percent in the next 40 years, says geoscientist Brad Udall, director of the University of Colorado Western Water Assessment.

Is Denver Getting Hotter? ›

How has the heat in Denver changed over the years? GH: Yes, it has gotten warmer. It's a climate change issue. The West is getting hotter and dryer and we're seeing that in the records.

Is co running out of water? ›

The Colorado River's decline has drained three-quarters of the water from the nation's largest reservoirs, falling closer than ever to levels where hydroelectric dams can't generate power and millions will lose access to drinking water and irrigation supplies.

Why is Colorado's air so polluted? ›

Colorado has a whole lot of sunshine and heat in the summer, and it also has a whole lot of VOCs and nitrogen oxides, thanks to emissions from the thousands of oil and gas operations and the ever-worsening Denver metro car traffic.

Does Colorado have pollution? ›

Colorado has some of the worst ozone pollution of anywhere in the US. In 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency reclassified the Denver area as a "serious" violator of federal air quality standards.

Is global warming getting better in 2022? ›

The worst projection for climate change in 2022, is that the chance for the average global temperature to rise above 1.5°C has increased to almost 50% for the next five year period between 2022 and 2026.

Is the Sun getting hotter? ›

The Sun is becoming increasingly hotter (or more luminous) with time. However, the rate of change is so slight we won't notice anything even over many millennia, let alone a single human lifetime. Eventually, however, the Sun will become so luminous that it will render Earth inhospitable to life.

How many years until climate change is irreversible? ›

There is some indication the system has experienced a gradual weakening over the past few decades, and it may be critically unstable. Lenton's research suggests that if global temperatures continue to rise, the AMOC could collapse in 50 to 250 years.

What does 100% rain mean? ›

So… if the forecaster knows precipitation is sure to occur ( confidence is 100% ), he/she is expressing how much of the area will receive measurable rain.

What does 80% chance of rain mean? ›

An “80% chance of rain” means that there is an 80% chance that rain will fall somewhere within the forecasted area. Rain refers to 0.01 inch or more.

How accurate is rain 5 day forecast? ›

The Short Answer:

A seven-day forecast can accurately predict the weather about 80 percent of the time and a five-day forecast can accurately predict the weather approximately 90 percent of the time.

How does climate change affect food production? ›

Many foods produced by plants growing at elevated CO2 have reduced protein and mineral concentrations, reducing their nutritional value. Harsher climate conditions will increase use of more heat-tolerant breeds in beef production, some of which have lower meat quality and reproductive rates.

How does climate change impact food and water availability? ›

Climate change can disrupt food availability, reduce access to food, and affect food quality. For example, projected increases in temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, changes in extreme weather events, and reductions in water availability may all result in reduced agricultural productivity.

How does climate change affect the economy? ›

Economic Impact

Overall, climate change will harm the U.S. economy, even with modest amounts of warming. The U.S. economy would stand to lose between about 1 percent to 4 percent of GDP annually by the end of the century through effects to mortality, labor and the energy sector alone under a high emissions scenario.

What are 2 big factors that affect Colorado climate? ›

Colorado's mid latitude and mid continental position, coupled with its rugged topography and high elevations create highly variable seasonal and daily temperatures throughout the state.

Could the Dust Bowl happen today? ›

Improved agricultural practices and widespread irrigation may stave off another agricultural calamity in the Great Plains. But scientists are now warning that two inescapable realities — rising temperatures and worsening drought — could still spawn a modern-day Dust Bowl.

What kind of climate does Colorado have? ›

Contents. Colorado's combination of high elevation, midlatitude, and continental interior geography results in a cool, dry, and invigorating climate. The average annual temperature for the state is 43.5 degrees Fahrenheit (F), which is 13.7 degrees below the global mean.

How long has Colorado been drought? ›

Since the turn of the century, Colorado has experienced several years of severe drought. In fact, 2002, 2012, 2018, and 2020 were some of the driest on record.

Why is the Colorado River drying up? ›

Part of the reason why the Colorado River is shrinking is the dwindling amount of snow and rain. The West is in its 23rd year of drought, which research suggests could be the driest period in the last 1,200 years, made worse by climate change.

What states are in a drought 2022? ›

As of July 11, 2022, drought conditions were most severe in the States of California, Texas, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico. According to USDM, on July 11, 2022, more than 32 percent of land in western states was classified as experiencing extreme or exceptional drought.

Is Colorado safe from climate change? ›

Colorado faces a lower threat level from extreme heat than most states. Still, heat wave days are projected to jump from about 10 a year to nearly 50 a year by 2050. Across most of the country, average temperatures have increased at a rate of about 0.13°F (0.07°C) per decade since 1910.

What state is safest from climate change? ›

Climate change hazards like extreme heat, drought, wildfires, inland flooding, and coastal flooding are expected to impact millions of Americans by 2050. Vermont is the best state to move to avoid climate change. At-risk homeowners can minimize threats and save money by future-proofing their homes.

Where will be the best place to live in 2050? ›

Michigan, says globalization expert. A new book examining the forces shaping the future of global migration forecasts Michigan as the best place in the world to live in 2050.

What two factors control climate? ›

The two most important factors in the climate of an area are temperature and precipitation. The yearly average temperature of the area is obviously important, but the yearly range in temperature is also important.

What is Colorado's climate? ›

Contents. Colorado's combination of high elevation, midlatitude, and continental interior geography results in a cool, dry, and invigorating climate. The average annual temperature for the state is 43.5 degrees Fahrenheit (F), which is 13.7 degrees below the global mean.

What is an environmental problem in Colorado? ›

Colorado suffers from a serious and growing air quality problem, failing year after year to meet federal standards for air that's healthy and safe to breathe. That needs to change. Haze over Rocky Mountain National Park. Air pollution harms human health and wildlife and damages national parks.

Why does it get so cold in Colorado? ›

Usually, temperatures decrease with altitude which is why the mountains are normally colder than Metro Denver and the eastern plains. During an inversion in Colorado, cold dense air is trapped against the foothills and mountains just west of the Front Range.

Do mountains block rain? ›

The mountains block most precipitation from falling in the valley, creating a dry climate where few plants grow. A rain shadow is a patch of land that has been forced to become a desert because mountain ranges blocked all plant-growing, rainy weather. On one side of the mountain, wet weather systems drop rain and snow.

What effect does an increase in greenhouse gas concentration have on the energy budget of the Earth? ›

Increased atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations give rise to an imbalance in Earth's energy budget by initially reducing the amount of emitted thermal infra-red radiation. The result of this imbalance is an accumulation of excess energy in the Earth system over time.

How does a large body of water such as an ocean influence climate? ›

Large bodies of water, such as oceans, seas and large lakes, can affect the climate of an area. Water heats and cools more slowly than landmasses. Therefore, the coastal regions will stay cooler in summer and warmer in winter, thus creating a more moderate climate with a narrower temperature range.

Does Colorado have all 4 seasons? ›

Denver and Colorado have four distinct seasons, so spring, summer, fall and winter each have something a bit different to offer in terms of weather and available activities,” says Rachel Benedick, vice president of sales and services Visit Denver.

How many climates are in Colorado? ›

Climate of Colorado. Colorado may be divided into three climatic regions that largely reflect differences in elevation and proximity to the major mountain ranges: the eastern plains, the Colorado Piedmont, and the Rocky Mountains and the Colorado Plateau in the west.

Does Colorado have natural disasters? ›

What natural disasters does Colorado have? Colorado's most common natural disasters include wildfires, floods, winter storms, severe storms, tornadoes, and droughts. Less significant disasters include landslides, power outages, and earthquakes.

Is co running out of water? ›

The Colorado River's decline has drained three-quarters of the water from the nation's largest reservoirs, falling closer than ever to levels where hydroelectric dams can't generate power and millions will lose access to drinking water and irrigation supplies.

Why is Colorado's air so polluted? ›

Colorado has a whole lot of sunshine and heat in the summer, and it also has a whole lot of VOCs and nitrogen oxides, thanks to emissions from the thousands of oil and gas operations and the ever-worsening Denver metro car traffic.

Is water a problem in Colorado? ›

The reservoirs on the Colorado River, which starts in the mountains of Colorado and supplies more than 40 million people in the West with water, have hit critically low levels in the last year. The emergency has prompted the federal government to step in and demand the use of less Colorado River water.

Is there a city in Colorado that doesn't snow? ›

The least snowy places in Colorado include Grand Junction, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Commerce City, and Longmont. In Grand Junction, the snowiest month is December with an average of 3.74 inches, followed by January (2.83 inches), and February (2.6 inches).

Will Colorado become a desert? ›

Colorado, Utah and Wyoming could be as dry as Arizona in the future, study says. A new study finds that the upper Colorado River basin is drying out due to climate change. This means in the future, parts of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming could more closely resemble Arizona and the desert Southwest.

Is Colorado expensive to live? ›

The Overall Cost of Living in Colorado. Colorado is an expensive state, which may be surprising to a lot of people. For a single person living in Colorado, the average monthly cost is $2,061, meanwhile, a family of four should expect to spend an average of $4,703 each month.

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