Currently in Denver — May 20th, 2022

Snow and 30s for Friday, May 20th

The weather, currently.

Here are the details for Friday:

  1. Morning: Cloudy and temperatures in the 40s.
  2. Afternoon: Start to see rain and temperatures starts to drop into 30s. We eventually see that rain turn into snow. Accumulations range from 4-6” for central Denver to 6-8” in the foothills.
  3. Evening: Snow for the rest of the evening into the overnight hours. Temperatures stay in the 30s overnight. Note that this snow will be very wet and will be a problem for power lines and plants. If you have any plants that you can pull inside overnight, now is the time to do so.

Megan Montero

What you need to know, currently.

As a heatwave sweeps across the nation, Denver is set to see some significant snowfall this weekend, with temperatures dropping from the 90s to the low 30s. Snow in late-May is unusual, but not alarming — nothing compared to 1816, which is known as the Year Without a Summer.

In April of 1815, Mount Tambora — a volcano in present-day Indonesia, that had been dormant for 200 years — erupted, sending a plume of ash the size of Australia into the sky and causing a volcanic winter. The ground froze in July and August, snow fell in June, crops and livestock died off — causing widespread famine. According to the New England Historical Society, farmers, who had already shorn their sheep for the summer, tried to tie their wool back onto them, to no avail.

Allegedly, the founder of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, Robert Thomas, had mistakenly printed copies predicting a cold, snowy July that year. Upon discovering his mistake, he had the copies destroyed — only to be vindicated by the volcanic winter.

The basic principles behind volcanic winters are what have inspired researchers to look into certain kinds of geoengineering—namely shooting aerosols into the atmosphere, that would block the sun and effectively mimic the effects of a volcanic eruption.

The risks to geoengineering are manifold, however. Although it may succeed in cooling the climate temporarily, geoengineering is not an argument against reducing emissions and could very well end up worsening the situation.

Alan Robock, a climatologist at Rutgers University outlined some of the risks in a 2016 paper, including ocean acidification, widespread drought and famine, and rapid warming if stopped (once you stop shooting aerosols into the atmosphere, the planet warms faster than if you’d done nothing at all.)

“So far geoengineering research concludes that there is no safe Plan B,” Robock writes. “And provides enhanced support for mitigation and adaptation.”

—Rebecca McCarthy