In most any year Denver can point to many notable weather events. However, in the case of 2012 we look back on a year lacking in major snowstorms or extraordinary spring severe weather. What we did have was warm and dry conditions that led to a disastrous wildfire season.
In terms of temperatures, Denver recorded an overall average of 53.8 degrees as recorded at Denver International Airport. This was 3.4 degrees above average and put 2012 in the history books as the third warmest year in Denver history.
The National Weather Service reported 73 days with temperatures at or above 90 degrees which far exceeds the average of 40 such days we normally see annually.
The late spring and early summer proved to be record setting in terms of heat. The month of June set a record high temperature average and July was the hottest month in Denver history. Two days, June 25th and 26th broke daily high temperature records and tied Denver’s all-time high temperature of 105 degrees.
On the opposite end of the thermometer, Denver officially recorded 132 days with temperatures at or below freezing. On average the Mile High City records 157 days of freezing temperatures.
While the year was unusually warm, it was also extraordinarily dry. A mere 10.11 inches of precipitation was recorded in Denver’s rain bucket at DIA, 4.19 inches below normal. While extremely dry, the measurement was not low enough to make the list of top 15 driest years.
Total snowfall for the calendar year ended up at 38.5 inches at DIA. This fell well short of the Denver annual average snowfall of 53.5 inches. Denver’s snowfall was enough to keep it off the list of top 15 least snowiest years.
Snowfall started out reasonably strong thanks to a healthy snowfall total in February. However while March is on average our snowiest month, that did not hold true in 2012. A mere 0.03 inch of precipitation was recorded setting the stage for the balance of a dry year.
Combined, June, July and August recorded only 1.81 inches of precipitation at DIA. This was an astonishing 4.02 inches below average for that period.
While September brought above normal precipitation, the final three months of 2012 returned us to drier than normal conditions.
Extreme weather events were not particularly common in 2012. There was a distinct lack of heavy snow events and even spring’s severe weather season was relatively tame.
However, the hot summer temperatures and tinder dry conditions did lead to a deadly and destructive wildfire season.
The High Park Fire in June quickly became the second largest wildfire in Colorado history. That blaze was soon followed by the Waldo Canyon Fire west of Colorado Springs which went into the history books as the most destructive blaze in state history.