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Denver on track for driest year

Bill Scanlon
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado

Holy Mojave, 2008 is shaping up to be the driest year in Denver’s history.

As of Wednesday, the official weather site at Denver International Airport had recorded just 3.26 inches of precipitation, National Weather Service hydrometeorologist Frank Benton said today.

That’s a third less than the previous record set in the drought year of 2002, when 4.65 inches of precipitation had been recorded by July 9 of that year.

The 2002 total of 7.48 inches of precipitation stands as the driest year on record, dating back to 1872.

Every month of 2008 has had less than half the long-term average moisture, including July, during which just .22 inches of rain has fallen. The average through July 9 is .59 inches.

April of 2008 was at one-fifth of average, and March was at one-sixth of average.

There was almost no moisture at all in January, when DIA recorded just .18 inches of precipitation.

Typically, 10 inches of snow equals about 1 inch of precipitation in Denver’s climate.

The low readings can be somewhat misleading because DIA is east of most of metro Denver’s population and doesn’t always get the same weather.

For example, during the big rainstorm of June 5, DIA recorded just .57 inches, but many areas of Denver and the suburbs recorded well over an inch.

Still, it’s been very dry all along the Front Range and the Eastern Plains.

“You can’t blame it on La Nina,” Benton said. “Because our mountains have gotten hammered.

“It’s just a lack of systems that came through.

“The systems that did come through were generally dry.

“We hear the thunder and see the lightning, but no moisture comes with it.”

The fact that many areas of the central and northern mountains had a good snow year is saving metro Denver from the serious consequences of a drought, Benton said.

“That will fill up the reservoirs,” Benton said. “We haven’t heard anything about rationing” water in metro Denver this summer, he said.

When rain does fall in metro Denver “it helps the grass and the trees and people are happy,” he said. But most of the water Front Range residents depend on for showers and lawn sprinkling comes from the melting snow working its way through reservoirs.

The Eastern Plains are hurting from the lack of rain, Benton said. Besides not getting enough water on the farms, “they’ve had quite a bit of hail out there,” he noted. “Luckily, we’ve missed out on the big hail here.

“I just don’t know how they survive out there,” he said.

He asked one longtime eastern Colorado farmer that question. “She said, ‘We’re just spending our savings and hoping next year will be better.’

“I feel bad for those people.”

While it’s shaping up to be a record dry year, 2008 has been fairly typical temperature-wise, just a little bit cooler than average.

June felt nice and mild to many people along the Front Range, but actually was just .2 degrees cooler than normal ” an average daily temperature (not the high or the low) of 67.4 degrees, compared to the typical 67.6 degrees.

Five of the 10 warmest Junes have come since 1980, perhaps inuring people to expect a sweltering month.


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