Ten Things You Should Know About Denver Weather

Ten Things You Should Know About Denver Weather
Danielle Lirette
Maybe more than most places, Denver and Colorado depend on weather for our livelihood. Of course the ski resorts need snow, but we also need that melting snow come spring for our drinking water, and the wonderful, abundant sunshine for our tourism (even if there are some myths lumped in there about how much sun we get every year, but more on that later). Heck, our license plates even have snow on them, perhaps a quiet tribute to our love for — and appreciation of — our wild weather.

If you like a mix of seasons, sunny weather (even if it's not 300 days a year's worth, but more on that later), bits of warm air pretty much year-round, massive temperature swings and the occasional blizzard, you're in the right place. Here are ten things to know about Denver's weather.

10. Don't like the weather? Wait fifteen minutes. No, seriously.

Every city seems to claim the adage "If you don't like the weather, wait fifteen minutes." In Denver, it's actually true.

In the spring, fall and sometimes during the winter, our cold fronts are the real deal. If you've lived here for at least a year, you know what we're talking about: a huge, 20-degree-plus drop in temperature in an hour or two, or even a few minutes.

Remember last month when we hit 81 degrees on November 27? The next day our high was just 46 degrees, a 35-degree drop in temperature in just 24 hours. That happens all the time here, especially during fall and spring.

How about this fun fact? On January 25, 1872, Denver's high temperature was 46 degrees. It dropped down to negative-20 degrees that night — a 66-degree one-day temperature split!

click to enlarge Colorado Mills has barely reopened for business after a hailstorm destroyed parts of the mall in May. - BRANDON MARSHALL
Colorado Mills has barely reopened for business after a hailstorm destroyed parts of the mall in May.
Brandon Marshall
9. Hail, no: May and June are our stormiest and wettest months.

It's hard for us to get storms in the fall and winter; we're just too dry and cold in those months. But come late spring and early summer, a few ingredients really come together to make some massive storms.

Usually, fronts, ample moisture and strong winds at the surface and aloft come together to bring us big, bad storms, particularly during May and June. For example, the huge hailstorm that put the Colorado Mills mall out of commission for several months was in May.

click to enlarge BRANDON MARSHALL
Brandon Marshall
8. Our warmest temperature on record... 105 degrees, last seen during the epically hot summer of 2012 that led to horrendous wildfires around our state. We've hit 105 degrees four times: twice in 2012 (June 25 and 26), once in July 2005 and another time in August 1878.

click to enlarge DANIELLE LIRETTE
Danielle Lirette
7. Our coldest temperature on record... negative-29 degrees, way back in January 1875, when Ulysses Grant was president. More recently, we hit negative-25 degrees back in December 1990, tied for our second-coldest reading on record.

For those doing the math, that puts our warmest-to-coldest temperature range at 134 degrees.
6. Tornadoes aren't common, but they happen.

Tornadoes are more common in eastern Colorado, coming from storms that have strengthened after rolling off the mountains.

Denver County has seen seventeen tornadoes since 1950. The most recent was an EF-1 (short for Enhanced Fujita) tornado back in 2015. They're rare, but they happen.

Fortunately, a tornado hasn't killed anyone in Denver, though thirteen injuries have been reported from tornadoes in our county since 1950.

click to enlarge DANIELLE LIRETTE
Danielle Lirette
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Chris Bianchi is a Westword contributor interested in politics.
Contact: Chris Bianchi