Denver7 | Weather


Heading out for a hike? Here's what you should know about Colorado weather

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Posted at 5:03 PM, Jun 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-21 14:02:39-04

Colorado's getting warmer, especially with the increasing effects of climate change.

At least we have the mountains, where we can go to escape from some of that heat. But in the Denver area, we've seen more days above 95 degrees in the last 50 years – about 15 more days than we did back in the early 1970s.


So as the summers are getting hotter, you might want to hang out and do some hiking in the high country. But there's some things to remember when you go up into the mountains.

It’s certainly cooler up there, which is great, but it's also a lot thinner air, so be ready for that – especially if you're not acclimated to that thinner air. We have about 15 percent less oxygen here in the Mile High City than at sea level. But by the time you get up to Leadville, it's 25 percent less oxygen, and by the time you get up to the top of a fourteener, you're looking at about 35 percent less oxygen than at sea level.


So you might think you're in good shape to head up that way, but you need to be very, very careful about those headaches. And some people can really have some difficulty with the altitude, so make sure you're acclimated.

Another thing: That thinner air means a lot more ultraviolet radiation and drier air so there's a greater risk of dehydration. So if you're heading up to hike, be sure to use sunscreen, proper clothing and lots of water to make sure that you stay hydrated and safe.

And don't go alone.

Make sure people know where you're going and when you're expecting to back down off the mountains. Very wise to do.

Here's my number one recommendation summertime: Get your fun in the high country early in the day. Try and plan your hikes so that you're off the mountain by mid day because lightning is a major weather hazard. In fact, it’s the biggest weather threat that we have in Colorado. More people are killed by lightning in our state than by any other weather threat. And if you can hear the thunder, you are at risk. You want to get below tree line, get down as low as you can, before we get into the almost daily dose of afternoon thunderstorms.

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Another thing to be concerned about is flash flooding.

Never drive through an area that you don't know the depth of the water because six inches of water can actually float a small car and a foot of water can float a big truck like an SUV or a pickup truck. And when vehicles begin to float, they don't float like a boat, the engine is heavier, they first go nose down and then flip over.

And if you're hiking and heavy rain begins to fall and it looks like flash flooding is in the area, move to higher ground immediately.

Fire danger will be a big story across the West again this summer. And we do know that we're going to see an awful lot of carbon dioxide put in the atmosphere from fires – but it's actually less than about 1 percent of the entire global CO2 that increases from the burning of fossil fuels.


But when you're out in the mountains, be very, very careful.

All of the fire concerns that are there, heed all of the laws, all the regulations and be exceedingly careful with any burnable materials. We are seeing hotter and drier conditions meaning more big fires across the West. And unfortunately as our climate warms, I don't see that trend changing very much.

Probably the most important thing you do is follow the forecast. We will give you the latest weather information on Denver7 and all of our platforms, but know that mountain weather is very very tricky to forecast with all of the models that exist. Mountain weather is oftentimes very, very fast changing and so you want to be flexible with your plans. And be prepared to call off a hike if weather conditions begin to change quickly.

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