May is a transitionary month between cooler spring weather and hotter summer weather in Denver so it’s no surprise that this clash of seasons can spawn off some wild weather. May 2021 was no different with some wacky and abnormal weather occurring.
We had five different storms that brought us appreciable precipitation in May. Each of these storms brought multiple days of cloudy and rainy weather with them making it seem like we were a wetter and cloudier place than Seattle — and we were! We had 13 days in May where rain accumulated and 26 days of the month were categorized under partly cloudy or cloudy skies leaving only five days of sunshine for us to bask in.
It all started off with a cool weather system that produced heavy rain in Denver adding up to more than ¾ of an inch. It was a cold rain on May 3 when Denver’s high temperature was only 44 degrees. For higher elevations, this was a colder and snowier system with up to 14 inches of snow accumulating along the Front Range mountains.
On May 4th, NOAA updated their climate normals, something that is only done once every decade, and it showed that Colorado was warming and drying.
After a short break, our next system — also a cool system — brought another stretch of rain that lasted four days total and kept afternoon temperatures in the 40s for several days. From the 8th to the 11th, over ¾ of an inch of rain fell in Denver while higher elevations saw up to 10 inches of snow along the Front Range mountains. Denver reported a trace of snow on the 10th and 11th as overnight lows cooled just enough for some flakes to fly.
After another short break, our next storm moved in on the 16th and exited on the 18th. This was a weaker and warmer system so rain totals and snow totals were much less but this stretch of cloudy weather helped to beef up the number of cloudy days we had.
On May 22, a more spring-like storm moved in dropping well more than an inch of rain on Denver by the end of the day on the 23rd. This storm system brought small hail and street flooding to several areas around the metro and also brought our first severe weather outbreak of the season when 16 tornadoes were reported across the Eastern Plains. Thankfully there was no major damage or injuries reported.
Our final storm rolled through just in time for the Memorial Day weekend. This round of rain brought Denver over 0.71 inches of precipitation and allowed the Mile High City to end the month with 3.65 inches of precipitation.
Thanks in part to all of the cloudy weather, Denver averaged a temperature of 56.1º during the month which is 1.3 degrees below normal. Denver ended May with a surplus of 1.49 inches of precipitation thanks to all of the rainy days we had leading to complete removal of drought concerns in our area. Across a majority of the state, big improvements were seen in terms of drought.
The Western Slope is still struggling with extreme and exceptional drought and many more wet days are needed to alleviate some of the water concerns there.
So far this year, Denver has seen 10.49 inches of rain, well above the typical 6.37 inches we should normally get through May 31. This is the ninth-wettest start to a year that we’ve ever had and the most rain in the first 5 months since 1983. Needless to say, the amount of moisture we’ve seen is extremely beneficial and also not that typical anymore.
Looking ahead to June, the wet weather may be long sought after this summer as long-range forecasts are calling for June to be warmer than average with below-normal precipitation across the entire state. The summer forecast calls for hot and dry weather to dominate so the cool and wet weather as of late is overall a great thing when it comes to our drought and wildfire concerns along the Front Range.
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