Year in Review: Colorado Weather 2014

In recent years our weather headlines have been marked with extremes, from the 2013 floods to very bad wildfire seasons, we’ve seen it all. In 2014 the tone was generally a different one statewide. Outside of an active severe weather season, and several good visits of Arctic air, it’s been (at least arguably) a pretty quiet year.

Drought Relief
One of the biggest weather stories of 2014 across Colorado was the continued drought improvements across Colorado. While we are not drought-free statewide, this is the first time since 2011 that we’ll end the year with no part of the state under Extreme Drought or Exceptional Drought classification. The improvements are notable, but we still need moisture across southeast Colorado this winter.

As of December 23, 2014, 69.87% of the state was drought free. That’s up considerably from just 32.04% of the state to begin the year. Unfortunately, the greatest percentage of improvements came in the Abnormally Dry sector, and while conditions have improved over southeast Colorado, the Severe Classification has only dropped 1.3% over the last year.

Above normal precipitation for northeast Colorado
This goes hand-in-hand with our drought improvements, but worth pointing out the wet year we saw across northeast Colorado on its own. As of December 30, Denver International Airport had recorded 18.73” of precipitation since January 1, 2014. That’s 4.44” above the yearly average. It’s also 2.13” more than we saw in 2013, and a remarkable 8.62” more than we saw in 2012.

While pockets of southeast Colorado saw above normal precipitation for the year, widespread above normal precipitation was really confined to northeast Colorado.

Year to date precipitation departure from normal (inches) Colorado

And here’s a look at total precipitation accumulated across the country over the last 360 days.

NWS total precipitation 2014 | WeatherBell Analytics

It was a memorable year for severe weather across Colorado, and lest I forget maybe severe weather as well.

Landspout tornado, Roggen, Colorado

Despite a near record-low tornado count nationally in 2014, Colorado saw its share of tornadoes between May and August. The official numbers are not released yet for tornado counts across Colorado this year, but when they are, I would expect them to be above normal.

Related: Top U.S. Tornado Videos of 2014

Here’s a look at all the tornado warnings issued between January 1, 2014 and December 16, 2014. This map was put together by Dennis Mersereau of Gawker’s The Vane. Northeast Colorado saw some of the most tornado warnings of anywhere in the United States this past year, while Kansas and Oklahoma were largely quiet -- shown nicely in the map below.

Dennis Mersereau | The Vane

Also memorable were several high-altitude tornadoes this season, including this one from Park County in June:

The preliminary tornado count nationally based on Local Storm Reports is 1051 through December 29, 2014. As you can see, this is well below the average of 1,414, and just slightly higher than another incredibly quiet tornado year, 2013.

SPC 2014 U.S. Tornado Count

Lackluster snowfall
We finish 2014 well below normal for season to date (2014-15) snowfall in Denver. At just 10.1” since September, Denver is only 2.0” above where we started the snow season a year ago, and a 11.1” below normal for this point in the season.

Denver’s average cumulative seasonal snowfall is 57.5”. The 2013-14 season recorded just 38.4”, the second least snowiest season in the last five years after 2010-11. This year we’re ‘on track’ for a very similar season to last, although our snowfall to date doesn’t necessarily spell out the season we’ll have as whole. As most who live across eastern Colorado are well aware, it only takes one storm to completely turn around a dismal snow season.

Here are the cumulative snowfall totals for the last five seasons in Denver, 2014 (-15) in green. 2012-13 was another very slow starting season, but unlike 2010-11, it really picked up after December, and went on to finish well above normal.

Denver seasonal snowfall tracker

We want to extend a big thank you to all of our readers as we head into the New Year. It’s been a great year of growth for Weather5280, including the addition new contributors to the site, hosting our first ever weather meetup, and so many very wonderful interactions with all of you here on the site and social media. We have a lot planned for 2015, including big changes coming to the site (coming soon!), another wx meetup (wx + beer = good!), and with any luck at all the best damn weather forecasts you’ll find anywhere. Ever.

Did we miss anything? What were the most memorable weather stories for you this past year?

Brendan Heberton

Brendan is founder of Weather5280. He is co-founder of FreshyMap, and develops software for geospatial data analysis and visualization.

Denver, Colorado
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