With Denver breaking the record of no snow for 224 days, will this drought last forever?
224 days and counting.
That is how long it's been since there was ever any measurable snow in Denver. This phenomenon has broken the previous record set back in 1882 - when the snowfall records began. In all of those years, Denver hasn't gone into December without snow.
This does have a lot of implications though as the state has had a long-standing drought which has put a strain on water supplies that are now dwindling. And now that we're in December, the population is looking to be hitting the slopes soon.
Denver isn't the only area experiencing these drought conditions, it's across the entire state. Furthermore, Denver's November was recorded as the second-least snowiest in its entire recording history, just shy of it's November in 1949 where literally no flakes fell from the sky. This year, there were some flurries but nothing accumulated.
The poor state of accumulation of snow isn't just relegated to Denver or Colorado as a whole. As of December 1st, only 11.1% of the United States has snow according to a tweet from the NWS Weather Prediction Center.
What This All Means For Denver
Due to the lack of snow, ski resorts are looking to put a pause on their opening day. After all, the state is enduring the dryest and warmest periods it has ever experienced in the modern-day. The weather impact it's had on ski resorts shouldn't be overlooked.
Take Telluride for example. Ski resorts in that area had to delay opening day until after Thanksgiving which meant missing out on revenues they'd get from the holiday weekend.
But before you think ski resorts are going to be going out of business, many have looked to making artificial snow in order to cover their losses. This is on top of making it possible for skiers to come back down safely from the mountains. The only wrinkle to that plan is the weather once more.
In order for snowmaking to work two things must happen:
- Enough hours of snowfall must occur
- And you can only make snow in low humidity and low temperatures.
Unfortunately, out of the 300 hours of snowmaking that's needed, only 100 hours have occurred. This creates the scenario where snowmakers are literally filling in for Mother Nature.
And as for the weather itself, there is little people can do. They need to wait patiently for conditions on the mountains to remain below freezing during the night and the day to maximize the base snowpack. There are some tools to help with this but nature has to be willing to help.
The lack of snowfall in Colorado doesn't just impact the ski industry in the state - a $5 billion dollar industry. Snow is also crucial for the state's access to freshwater too.
Drought Seems To Only Be Getting Worse
The freshwater conditions are rough as over two-thirds of Colorado's entire water supply stems from the snowpack they experience during the winter months. Less snow means there is less water and the longer the long-standing drought will continue to plague the western United States.
All in all, Colorado's drought situation has taken a bad turn as officials are declaring water shortages for the first time, partially fueled by climate change. This comes at a time where 88% of the state was under moderate drought last week and has now bumped up to 95% as no precipitation is being forecasted until next week.
Snow Can Come Back Though
Despite all of this though, it doesn't mean that the rest of winter is going to be like this. The month of December has been historically known to make very healthy snowfalls in Denver and surrounding areas. Records show that an average of 8 inches of snow over the course of the month.
This usually equates to feet of snow in the mountains where people will be able to ski. It might not seem like much, but feet of snow can cover a lot of terrain in mountains. One to three storms could deliver that much snow resulting in very quick changes and better conditions all around.