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December is Denver's coldest month and 3rd snowiest

Denver in December is cold and sometimes snowy, but don't expect to dash through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh
Posted: 1:18 PM, Dec 02, 2023
Updated: 2023-12-02 16:09:35-05

DENVER — December is a festive month as the holiday season goes into high gear. And perhaps we have only this month where snow is a welcome site. But how much snow should we expect in Denver in December? The short answer: not as much as you might think.

However, what we lack in snowfall, we make up with cold temperatures as the monthly mean for Denver is only 30 degrees. It’s Denver’s coldest month. And when we say cold, we mean c-cold!

The coldest it has ever gotten in Denver in December was -25 degrees. That bone-chilling temperature was recorded on both the 24th of 1876 and the 22nd of 1990.

The daily normal high temperatures for December hold fairly constant starting with a high of 45 degrees and ending the month with a normal high of 43 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

For low temperatures, December in Denver begins with a normal low of 19 degrees and finishes with a low of 17 degrees. But it’s not always cold outside, baby.

The warmest temperature ever recorded during December was 79 degrees on the 5th in 1939. That’s not a very festive temperature, but nearly 80 degrees in December does sound nice.

Let it snow!

And what about the white stuff? Well, December is Denver’s third snowiest month. We only collect, on average, 8.5 inches of snow. But the month is capable of producing some big storms, like the record-breaking snowfall we got in 1913.

Starting on the first of the month and ending on the 5th of that year, the heaviest and longest-duration snowstorm in Denver's history dumped a total of 45.7 inches of snow!

That 1913 storm shut down the city for days and it wasn't fully back on its feet for an entire month, according to the Denver Library Genealogy, African American & Western History Resources. City workers removed roughly six billion cubic feet of snow!

An article written by Brian K. Trembath on the library's website states the event caught the city off-guard. It started with just a few inches a day, but by the fourth day, it began to dump, shutting down the city's entire streetcar system.

"Fortunately, Denver's other utilities, including phone systems, the electrical grid, and the water system worked without major problems," Tremboth wrote.

Photos on the Denver Library's archive show just how much snow fell and how the city dealt with what -- unbeknownst to them at the time -- would be the city's biggest snowstorm.

People walk down a shoveled pathway on a residential street in Denver, Colorado after the snowstorm of 1913. Shows snow packed lawns and snow covered houses.
View of the Denver City Tramway Company Lawrence Street trolley in the great snowstorm of 1913 in Denver, Colorado. Shows cars numbered, "95," "(?)85," and "(?)8."
View of men shoveling snow in front of the Denver Public Library on West Colfax and Bannock Street after the great snowstorm of 1913 in Denver, Colorado. Shows horse-drawn wagons, men, and the Capitol building.

What about are least snowiest December? In 1995, not one significant snowfall was recorded for the entire month in Denver. Here are five other Decembers where barely any snow fell:

  1. 0.1" 1928
  2. 0.4" 1890
  3. 0.5" 1935
  4. 0.7" 1977
  5. 0.7" 1895

An El Nino winter?

You may have heard after three winters of cooler than average water conditions, we now have "warmer" and that's called El Nino out in the Pacific Ocean. The El Nino effect puts a lot of energy into the atmosphere and it tends to change how the jet stream flows.

With the El Nino climate pattern, we tend to get more of a split Jet stream and more of a west to east flow. That is important because that tends to block the colder air up in Canada and we can get fewer Arctic outbreaks.

Mike Nelson has the 30-day outlook in the video below:

December weather outlook

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