By Justin McHeffey
Thursday’s fierce Front Range winds didn’t help our dry weather situation. Top wind speeds around the area included a 97 mph gust near Estes Park, with 50–60 mph gusts for most of the metro area. Although the wind has subsided, a 27 acre grass fire burned near Superior Friday afternoon — no homes were lost or damaged. Wind causes more evaporation of water in our wild vegetation, and that’s a dangerous combination given the lack of rain or snow lately.
Looking at Denver’s recorded snowfall this month, we’ve technically had more than average — in fact, we’ve had twice the monthly average. Normal snow for the whole month of February is 5.7″, but as of this post we’ve officially measured 11.6″ at DIA. If that’s the case, why are we so concerned with wildfires and the recent dry weather?
That 11.6″ wasn’t exactly spread over a long period — we received all of that snow in the first two days of the month! Our forecast continues in a dry, unseasonably warm spell and it might not be until the middle of next week when we see any snow at all. One piece of good news is that we won’t experience any other major wind events in the foreseeable future.
The past 11 days have produced above average temperatures for this time of year, and it hasn’t been since Feb. 8 when daytime highs were where they should be.
The current El Niño analysis shows a declining trend over the past two months. Ocean temperatures have been cooling in all monitored regions along the equator. This means the strength and frequency of our storm systems are expected to lose their punch as we move into spring. At that point, neutral or even La Niña conditions may develop. This would mean a return to average or below average precipitation. There’s still the possibility that there’s a lag between the pronounced El Niño signature we saw in the early part of winter and a few more major snowstorms during late February and March.
Justin McHeffey provides nightly reports from the Mobile Weather Lab. He travels Colorado in search of Mother Nature’s most powerful and beautiful conditions. Like his Facebook page Meteorologist Justin McHeffey and follow him on Twitter @WeatherMcHeffey.