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Denver in May: How near-perfect weather can turn on a dime and throw a tantrum

Posted: 1:08 PM, May 03, 2022
Updated: 2022-05-03 19:14:12-04
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May we introduce you to the month of May? In Colorado, that introduction could go many different ways as the month, shall we say, is somewhat on the unstable side.

The fifth month of the year is considered the beginning of severe-weather thunderstorm season in Colorado, but it’s also known for acting like a toddler as it’s often fickle and can throw temper tantrums at a moment’s notice.

And just like a toddler, it can melt your heart with scorching temperatures but also dump inches of snow on you when you turn your back, even after you explicitly told it several times not to do that anymore.

Denver7 Chief Meteorologist Mike Nelson provides an outlook on May weather and explains some of the extreme weather statistics and the potential for snow. Watch the video in the player below:

May weather outlook

As the National Weather Service puts it, “Just about anything can happen in the month of May when it comes to Denver's weather.” We’re sure parents of toddlers have uttered similar words when describing their home life.

Let’s get the stats out of the way

May is about 10 degrees warmer than April on average and is Denver’s fifth-warmest month of the year. The month starts out with a normal high of 66 degrees and ends with a normal high of 77 degrees.

The average high temperature is 72 degrees, and the average low temperature is 43 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

We don’t typically see a lot of days above 90 degrees. One is the average number of days Denver gets that hot in May. And dropping below freezing is rare, too. Denver sees about two days on average of a low temperature of 32 degrees or below.

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The coldest May in Denver occurred in 1917, when the mean temperature was 48.7 degrees. The warmest May in Denver was in 1934, when the mean temperature was 64.7 degrees.

The National Weather Service's latest forecast is leaning toward a warmer-than-average May for Denver and parts of the Front Range.

If you’re in the mood for some Seattle-like weather, then May is probably the closest Denver will get, as it’s considered the wettest month of the year. The monthly mean for precipitation is 2.12 inches.

The wettest May in Denver history (and wettest month ever) brought 8.57 inches of precipitation in 1876.

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Forecasters are leaning toward a below-average May for Colorado this year when it comes to rainfall. It’s not good news considering many parts of the state are stuck in moderate to severe drought conditions.

A quick overview of the current drought situation: We're in a slightly better position compared to where we were at this point last year. Still, all of the state is abnormally dry and:

  • 89% of the state is experiencing moderate or worse drought
  • 48% of the state is experiencing severe drought or worse drought
  • 5% of the state is experiencing extreme or exceptional drought

Below is the latest map showing drought in Colorado.

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And don’t think since the calendar says May we’re free from snow. The month is considered part of Denver’s snow season, which runs from September to May, but it ranks as the least snowy month of that period. Denver sees an average of 1.1 inches of snow in May.

The snowiest May on record occurred in 1889, when 15.5 inches fell during the month.

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Let’s talk about severe weather season

Colorado's extreme weather events have made forecasting in the Centennial State challenging at times. From mountain tornadoes to snow in June, Colorado spring weather can get a little tipsy.

And May is the first month of Mother Nature's binge, when warm Gulf moisture will occasionally pick fights with cold fronts, creating periods of instability, thunderstorms, hail and sometimes tornadoes.

The state sees an average of 27 tornadoes during May and June, with June being the busiest month with an average of 17 tornadoes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

There have been more than 2,100 tornado events recorded in Colorado and at least five deaths related to twisters since 1950.

Damaging hail is also a concern in May. Storms can produce hailstones up to the diameter of a fully-grown grapefruit.

In a typical season, which is from mid-April to mid-August, the Front Range sees about three or four catastrophic hailstorms, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

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Colorado, along with Nebraska and Wyoming, makes up what meteorologists call “hail alley.” The area averages seven to nine hail days per year. Colorado had the second-highest number of hail claims in the US from 2013 to 2015 (182,591), second only to Texas.

Hail over a quarter in diameter — depending on wind speeds — can kill humans, pets or livestock if it strikes in the correct location. One death and numerous injuries have occurred in Colorado as a result of hail.

In this Denver7 360 In-Depth deep dive 📈

  • Preview Denver's May weather 🌤
  • Check the normal high/low by day ☀️
  • Compare record low and high temperatures ☀️
  • A look at the beginning of severe weather season 🌪
  • The wettest Mays on record 🌧

To view May stats and data fullscreen on your computer or phone click here: https://infogram.com/1tvd4ex62opllrhz9oxwpx10d6u2eeevz9m