There’s no doubting that this April has been windier than normal. And can you even comprehend the amount of fire danger there’s been across the state? It’s been a heck of a month. If you’ve lived in Denver, or Colorado, for any amount of time, you know you have to pay attention to months like this since it can have big repercussions on drought and summer fires.
There were several notable weather records that were broken in Denver this month. One was the amount of moisture the city received – or lack thereof. We’re in rare company when it comes to total moisture this month. Another is the amount of fire danger that was realized across the state. We’ve never had this active of a month in regard to fire danger. Lastly, the wind. I think we all can understand that it’s been a breezy few weeks.
Total Moisture this April
April is usually one of our wetter months out of the entire year. Through April 28, Denver reported just 0.01 inches, or one-hundredth of an inch, of rain at the official weather reporting station at the Denver airport. 0.01 inches of rain during an entire month doesn’t happen very often.
Weather records in Denver date back to the 1870s – about 150 years. Out of those 150 years of records (or 1804 months), only 21 months have reported 0.01 inches of rain or less. That boils down to each month, we have about a 1.16 percent chance of getting only 0.01 inches of rain. Just about impossible. Not to mention it has barely snowed. Only a trace of snow has been reported which is 0.005 hundredths of an inch or less. So, basically snowless. This will be our first snowless April in 30 years.
Most of Colorado is experiencing this dry April. Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Pagosa Springs, Telluride and much of the eastern Plains have a huge deficit this month. Some of the mountains have fared okay but they are also still lacking with the exception of areas near Craig.
There is the possibility of a few rain showers before the end of the month but the chances are low and rain technically only counts for those around the Denver metro if it falls at the Denver airport. If you’re one of the few to get some rain or snow, consider yourself lucky. Even if the Denver airport ends up with a few more hundredths of an inch of rain, which is about all that is expected, getting this low of an amount of moisture doesn’t happen often.
Record Amount Fire Danger
Fire danger can be measured two ways. By the number of days where the Storm Prediction Center’s (SPC) regional fire outlook includes some area of Colorado or by the number of active local fire alerts that were issued by the National Weather Service.
Whichever way you measure it this month though, you’ll still end up with record numbers. Let’s start with fire outlooks issued by the SPC. The SPC measures fire danger regionally on a scale from elevated, to critical, to extreme. Another type of fire danger they monitor is the risk of dry thunderstorms or thunderstorms with no rain but there is lightning.
There were only 4 days so far this month where Colorado was not included in some level of fire danger (April 1, 2, 24 and 25). This April has had more days of fire danger than any month since records of this type began in 2006. There’s already fire danger forecast in Colorado for Thursday and Friday. Saturday is also looking dry and breezy so fire danger may once again be heightened. This would close the month out even stronger in terms of amount of fire danger experienced.
The other way to measure the amount of fire danger present is by how many Fire Weather Watches (FWW) or Red Flag Warnings (aka Fire Weather Warnings (FWW)) were issued across the state by the National weather Service. There have been 103 unique fire weather alerts issued through April 27, 2022. That’s already more than any month since records began in 2006 and more than the total issued through the entire year of 2007.
Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches have already been issued in parts of southern Colorado for Thursday and Friday.
April is typically our windiest month of the year but this April has been a bit much. We usually average about 4 High Wind Warnings (HWW) during this month. HWW’s are pretty common in Colorado during the winter and spring months as winter storms are typically windy storms.
This April, there have been 21 unique High Wind Warnings issued for local areas of Colorado. More than any April since records began in 2006. It’s also more than the total HWWs issued during all of 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2019.
Denver has seen 14 days this April with wind gusts over 30 mph. 3 days came with wind gusts over 40 mph and many days with gusts between 15-30 mph.
No matter which way you put it, it’s been dry and windy and that has created lots of fire danger across our state. The forecast through the rest of the month looks bleak. There is the chance of rain with an incoming storm but that chance is low. The chance of gusty winds, however, is high once again. If we get some rain in Denver, and that’s a big if, then that will be great and it would push us out of that super rare category of basically not getting any moisture. I’m not counting on it though.