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July Outlook Wet For Colorado, But It's Not Because Of El Niño

National Weather Service
The July precipitation outlook shows a chance for greater than average rainfall across Colorado and much of the Rocky Mountains

Coloradans may be thankful they don't live in hurricane country, as our Independence Day forecast looks mostly sunny.

That dry weather may not last, however. According to projections from the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center, July – typically the start of monsoon season – is likely to be wetter than average. It's also supposed to be slightly cooler than normal. Five of Denver's warmest July's have occurred in the past decade, with the warmest ever July taking place in 2012.

Because of the monsoon, July is typically a wet month for Denver, with average rainfall at 2.16 inches. Earlier in 2014, climate forecasters thought that the development of an El Niño might bring even more moisture to the state.

El Niño, however, has not gotten off to a strong start, said Klaus Wolter, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder. That may mean it has little impact on summer rainfall.

"This El Niño, as it got going a few months ago, it's not firing on all cylinders," Wolter said.

Although the forecast looks fairly dry and hot for the next few days, Wolter said often time the monsoon kicks off after a "good heat wave."

So in a week or so, the monsoon thunderstorms could start rolling in.

Even though El Niño, a cyclical climate phenomenon that occurs when temperatures in part of the tropical Pacific Ocean are warmer than normal, is not looking strong yet, that doesn't mean it won't get stronger later, Wolter added.

"There's another window of opportunity when it can amplify, and that is typically in the fall."

If that happens, the Front Range could see a wet fall, Wolter said. In past years when there has been an El Niño, the area has seen big snowstorms, come as early as October.

As to whether the monsoons will help the dry southeastern part of the state escape their long drought – while the seasonal rains certainly won't hurt, Wolter said it would take a whole lot of rain to break the dry cycle.

KUNC reporter Jackie Fortier contributed to this story.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn has been reporting from Colorado for more than five years, primarily from the Western Slope.
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