Aspen experienced one of its driest Augusts after a really wet first half of the year |

Aspen experienced one of its driest Augusts after a really wet first half of the year

An elephants head flower is in full bloom east of Independence Pass on Sunday. Wildflowers at higher elevations are still thriving despite drier than average conditions in July and August.

Aspen just experienced its sixth-driest August in the past 68 years, according to weather data collected by the water plant.

Just 0.82 inches of precipitation fell at the water plant for the month. That was less than half of the August average of 1.78 inches. The water plant has kept records since 1951.

The record low for precipitation in August was 0.58 inches in 1996. Other years that were drier than this year for the month were 1978, 1985, 1988 and 2004.

On the other end of the spectrum, August 2010 was the wettest for the month with 4.92 inches of precipitation, according to the water plant’s records.

This past July also was drier than average in Aspen. The water plant recorded 1.35 inches of precipitation for the month. The average is 1.75 inches.

The dry summer months followed a really wet first half of the year. Each month from January through June was wetter than average, the most remarkable being March. The Aspen Water Plant recorded 6.04 inches of precipitation that month, the highest for March since records were kept in 1951 and well above the average of 2.38 inches.

The heavy snows of early March triggered a historically high number and magnitude of avalanches in the backcountry surrounding Aspen. This summer, wildflowers have benefited from the long lingering snowpack. Many flowers are still blooming at high elevations.

For the year-to-date, Aspen Water Plant has received 20.52 inches of precipitation. The average through August is 15.07 inches. A second weather station at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, which is at a lower elevation than the water plant, recorded 11.95 inches of precipitation through August compared to a year-to-date average of 11.46 inches.

Meanwhile, long-range forecasts are starting to roll in for the winter. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s forecast for December through February indicated a strong probability of higher than average temperatures for that three-month period in all of Colorado. NOAA forecasted an “equal chance” of Colorado’s precipitation being above average, below average and average for the three-month period.

Meteorologists warn that long-range forecasts are rarely accurate.

That hasn’t stopped the Farmer’s Almanac from making bold predictions. It sent out a news release Aug. 26 with the headline “Wild Ride Ahead — 2020 Farmers’ Almanac Predicts a ‘Polar Coaster’ Winter.” Colorado is included in the zone where the Farmers’ Almanac foresees a “frigid and snowy” winter.

For the record, the Farmers’ Almanac forecasted that winter 2018-19 would bring “teeth-chattering cold and plentiful snow” for Colorado. It nailed the snow part of its forecast.

Local micro-forecaster plans to release its winter outlook in early October.