When you think about the semi-arid climate in Denver, sunny days per year crossing 300 or strong, consistent UV rays may be some of the first things that come to your mind. After all, despite moderate temperatures outside of the summer, the city is promoted as one of the sunniest cities. But is it true? Does Denver really get that many sunny days or is the reality a little different?
Let’s discover the truth by using climate data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (National Weather Service is a part of the NOAA).
Here’s the Number of Sunny Days in Denver, Colorado
According to the NOAA, Denver International Airport, the biggest airport located close to the city, records 3,107 sunshine hours a year.
When we look at percent possible sunshine per month we can calculate how many sunny days Denver gets on average (note that it’s not a precise number to be expected every year). The numbers may be slightly different for downtown Denver because I use climate data from the airport located outside of the city.
Here are my calculations for the number of sunny days in Denver:
|Month||Sunshine hours||Percent possible sunshine||Average sunny days|
According to this data, Denver has about 254 sunny days. This means that it has 111 cloudy days. Note that a sunny day doesn’t necessarily mean a clear day. It may be a partly cloudy day as well.
We can see that “300 days of sunshine” is more of a marketing ploy than reality. Denver, while very sunny, doesn’t get anywhere close to 300 days of sunshine.
It does have strong UV radiation and a sunny day is much more probable than a cloudy one. But nonetheless, it’s not over 300 days a year. And considering that at least some of these 254 days are partly cloudy days with visible cloud cover, there’s even fewer days with clear, unobstructed skies.
Despite having less sunshine than commonly advertised, Denver is still consistently sunny. For most people, it’ll feel super sunny almost all the time. No matter when you go, you’re guaranteed to get at least a sunny day or two if you’re spending a few days in the city.
The sunniest months are January, August, and October with 22 days of sun. The least sunny months are February and November with 20 days of sunshine.
Sunshine Hours in Denver Compared to Other Cities
How does Denver’s climate stack up to other US cities? Let’s compare its sunshine hours to those of other cities in Colorado, Western US, and some major US cities.
Denver has 3,107 sunshine hours. Colorado Springs gets 3,256, with even more sun evenly distributed year round. Grand Junction gets 3,204 hours of sun.
Salt Lake city gets 3,029 sunshine hours. Albuquerque gets 3,415. Las Vegas gets 3,825. Los Angeles gets 3,254.
Miami gets 3,154. Houston gets 2,578. New York gets 2,535, Boston 2,634, and Chicago 2,508.
While Denver has little cloud cover, compared to other major cities in the Western US it isn’t sunnier. It is much sunnier than cities on the east coast, though.
How Many Days of Rain and Snow Does Denver Get?
We know how many cloudy days Denver gets. To get an even better picture, we may also take a look at how many days of precipitation it gets and how many days of snow it records.
So, how much does it rain in Denver and how many days of snow can you expect in an average year? Here’s the data:
|Month||Rainy days||Snowy days|
Denver gets on average 80 days of rain, meaning that it doesn’t rain 285 days of the year. Summers get noticeably more rain than winters but it never rains more than about 10 days per month.
Denver also records about 31 days of snow, with the highest probability between January and March.
If you want more detailed information on the climate in Denver or Colorado, you may want to refer to the Colorado Climate Center (website) with reports published by a (much more trustworthy than an amateur like me) Colorado state climatologist.
And if you’re curious about cities in Colorado that enjoy the highest temperatures, check out my article on the warmest cities in Colorado.
Frequently Asked Questions
Denver is a sunny city but there are many much sunnier cities in the US. For example, while Denver gets 3,107 hours of sunshine, Los Angeles gets 3,254, Key West gets 3,404, Phoenix gets 3,872 and Yuma gets 4,015. Moreover, desert cities usually get clear days while Denver has a mix of partly cloudy days and clear days.
Denver doesn’t get much rain. It rains on average only 80 days per year.
Denver is sunny in the winter. In fact, January is one of the sunniest months in the city, with low cloud cover and 22 days of sun on average.
Denver is located at an elevation of over 5,000 feet above sea level. At higher altitude there’s less air to scatter. This changes the color to that beautiful, darker intense blue. Lower air pollution may also contribute to bluer skies.
It doesn’t. On average, according to climate data from the National Weather Service, it records 254 days with some sun.
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