It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas persistent megadrought.
For the first time since record-keeping began in 1882, it has yet to snow in Denver this season.
That’s the first time ever the city has had a snowless meteorological fall, a term referring to the three-month span from September through November, which ended Tuesday.
And at 224 consecutive snowless days (and counting), Denver looks poised to potentially set another record for consecutive days without measurable snowfall (more than one-tenth of an inch). That record, 235 consecutive days, was set in 1887.
Not only has it not snowed, it’s been downright hot, with highs in the 70s, which for November and December represents temperatures 20 to 30 degrees above normal. Similar patterns are playing out this week across the central and western U.S.
The causes for the aberrant weather in Colorado, at least, are likely threefold, says local 9News meteorologist Chris Bianchi.
Colder than average sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific have set up what’s known as a La Niña system that’s contributing to drier and warmer conditions across the state. Dumb luck has probably played a role. And climate change is undoubtedly a factor as well.
According to Bianchi, June 1 through Nov. 30 has been the warmest and by far the driest six-month stretch for the city on record.
Thanks to a freakishly rainy spring ― the wettest in 80 years ― eastern Colorado’s yearly precipitation totals aren’t too far off historical averages.
But there’s nevertheless plenty of reason for concern. Colorado’s snowpack is running 35% to 85% of average and more than half the state is in severe drought, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System, reflecting conditions across most of the western United States.
Until “stringent” action is taken to mitigate human-caused climate change, the situation will worsen, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report this September advised.
Persistent drought across the west and southwest led to the first-ever Colorado River water shortage declaration this summer, with low water levels causing cascading problems downstream.
“We are seeing the effects of climate change in the Colorado River Basin through extended drought, extreme temperatures, expansive wildfires, and in some places flooding and landslides,” Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo told reporters in August, after federal officials declared a shortage in Lake Mead, “and now is the time to take action to respond to them.”