June close to matching Aspen’s driest on record
July 1, 2002
If May was dry – and it was – then June was absolutely parched.
Only .07 inches of rain fell in June, according to DayWeather Inc., a Cheyenne, Wyo., firm that records weather data and handles forecasts for The Aspen Times.
That paltry amount wasn’t the record for dryness, but darn close. No rain fell at all in June 1980, according to statistics tracked by the Aspen Water Department. The average for the month is 1.34 inches.
The water department’s records go back to 1951. The only other June that was almost this dry came in 1961 when .08 inches fell.
The difference this year is the cumulative effect of the drought. The snowpack was only about 66 percent of normal for much of last winter. Then, only .37 inches of rain fell in May, marking the driest in Aspen’s recorded history.
DayWeather’s data shows that the normal amount of precipitation through June is about 9.5 inches. This year, about 2.75 inches have fallen – only 29 percent of normal.
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The drought-stricken Western Slope can expect little relief, according to Don Day, a meteorologist and president of DayWeather.
“Is there some precipitation coming? Yes,” Day said. “Is it enough to break the drought? No.”
There is a “hint” of the monsoon making its annual appearance in Colorado, but it will affect mainly just eastern Colorado, according to Day. The mountains and western Colorado will probably only receive “leftovers,” he said.
The precipitation that streams up from Mexico to form the monsoon comes in a front that is like a “squiggling snake” so it is difficult to predict exactly what areas will be affected, Day said. There will be times when rain spills over to the Western Slope.
However, dry storms with lightning are more likely, Day said. That’s just what firefighters hope to avoid because of the tinder-dry conditions.
Summer is a difficult time to break a drought because the moisture is fueled by evaporating ground moisture. This builds clouds and leads to more rain. The jet stream isn’t bringing storms from the Pacific Ocean and probably won’t until the fall, Day said.
So, ironically, the drier it has been, the drier it will remain, at least for the short term.
“Droughts are horrible,” Day said. “It’s a vicious circle.”
Aspen’s driest calendar year on record is 1958, when only 12.22 inches of precipitation fell.