Record high, records lows, and early snow

10:15 AM MDT, Sunday, September 6, 2020

Dry, smoky, record hot weather continues until a strong cold front late Monday. Then we expect snow at high elevations and rain changing to snow at low elevations with record lows by Tuesday morning.

Before the cold front

Records today in Denver and Boulder are 97 in both places and we are well on our way. Yesterday (Sep 5) Denver set an all-time September record of 101, while Boulder’s record of 99 was the hottest for so late in the year. A dry wind will continue to create extreme fire danger, and the Cameron Peak fire may flare up again as it did yesterday. The winds above mountain top level are more northwesterly today, so more smoke may work its way into the Denver metro.

A weak cold front tonight should cool things off a little and temporarily stop the downslope wind, but hot, dry winds could re-develop again during the day Monday ahead of the very strong cold front late Monday afternoon or early evening.

After the cold front

Temperature will fall rapidly late Monday afternoon/early evening. Clouds should develop by midnight with snow above 8000 feet and rain or drizzle below 8000 feet changing to all snow even in the urban corridor before daybreak Tuesday. Melting rates at the ground will be high, so the maximum accumulation is likely on vegetation and cars during periods of heavy snow in the morning, even though the snow may continue for much of the day.

The record lows for Tuesday and Wednesday are 35 and 32 in Boulder, and 31 both days in Denver. All are at risk of being broken. It’s impressive enough to go from record high to record low in such a short period, but in this case we may go from the “hottest so latest in the season” to the “coldest so early in the season” in 48 hours.

Most likely accumulation (maximum on the ground at the peak depth)

Above 8000 feet: 7-12 inches.

6000-8000 feet: 5-10 inches

Below 6000 feet (urban corridor from metro Denver northward): 2-6 inches (probably on the lower end in Colorado Springs)

A small chance exists for more the 6 inches in Denver-Boulder, mainly if the snow starts before 3 AM, which seems unlikely at this time. Will update tomorrow.

Impact

Except for some brief slush accumulation on roads during peak snowfall rates, roads will be mainly wet. The real issue will be the heavy weight of wet snow on trees and power lines. Prepare for power outages and tree damage by Tuesday morning.

Not all impacts will be bad. The extreme fire danger and ongoing fires will be tamed by nature. This storm will do nothing to quench the fires in California, so there may still be some smoky skies in our future, but at least during the storm and for several days afterward we should have clean air.

Near record heat, then near record cold

12:15 PM MDT, Thursday, September 3, 2020

Heat

Labor Day weekend is looking hot and dry, at least through Sunday, but maybe Monday too. The record highs for Saturday-Sunday-Monday are 98, 97, 95 in Denver, and 97, 97, 93 in Boulder. We should at least get close to those, perhaps with a dry wind at times, so be aware of the fire danger.

Cold snap

We may get an initial weak cold front on Monday, but right now it is looking more likely that much of that day will be quite warm too. Late Monday or Monday night is when a strong cold front is forecast to move down the Front Range bringing unseasonably cold temperatures for a couple days.

There are increasing indications that the cold air mass may combine with a developing storm system over western Colorado, drawing moisture in from the plains, for the first “upslope” storm of the season. The result could be the first real snow for the Front Range Mountains and places like Estes Park and Nederland. Depending on the intensity and duration of the precipitation, and the time of day, a rain-to-snow progression can’t be completely ruled out for lower elevation areas like Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins on Tuesday. I will certainly plan to update that possibility. At the very least, it’s looking likely that Tuesday will have some cold rain.

September Snow?

For those who moved to this area in the last 20 years, September snow in Boulder and Denver may seem like science fiction. But in Boulder, for example, the season’s first measurable snow occurred in September about 25% of the time between 1898 and 2000. September produced the first snow of the season 5 times in the 1990s. Occasionally a big wet snow (8 inches or so) caused considerable damage to trees since they are still in their vulnerable leafed-out condition. That occurred in 1995 with 8.6″ in Boulder on September 20-21 (6-10 inches throughout much of the Denver area). But since 2000, measurable snow at the Boulder station only occurred once when a mere 0.5″ fell in the predawn hours of September 12, 2014, and melted almost as quickly as it fell.

If it does snow next Tuesday, the earliness of the date would be highly unusual, but not unheard of. Measurable snow occurred around the Denver-Boulder area on September 3, 1961. In Boulder the snowfall on that date is officially listed as a “trace,” but local accounts at the time report the ground and cars were whitened. Denver (Stapleton) reported 4.2″ with that one.

Cooler, then warm & dry again

4:15 PM MDT, Sunday, August 30, 2020

A cold front should sweep from north to south through the Front Range region tonight making Monday and Tuesday cooler. There isn’t a lot of moisture to work with, and the best area of moisture will move through the area between Monday evening and Tuesday morning, so the best chance for some clouds and rain in Monday night and early Tuesday.

Overall a dry pattern will continue into at least the start of the Labor Day weekend. We will see warmer weather Wednesday, maybe a bit cooler again Thursday, and then warmer again going into at least the first part of the weekend. Despite the recent break in the smoke, fire danger remains high, especially west of the Front Range, so be careful with fire.

Cooling trend in a couple days

12:45 PM MDT, Wednesday, August 26, 2020

We have a couple more hot days and then a little less hot on Friday, and something we can really call cooler by Monday. But before then, Thursday may see near record hot temperatures (record highs in Denver and Boulder are 98 and 96 for Thursday).

Although most of us will not see any rain of consequence today or Thursday, there is a better chance today than there has been, so you can hope. Friday afternoon and night might bring the best coverage of showers/thunderstorms that we’ve seen in weeks, but even then, it probably won’t get everyone.

A cold front late Sunday or Sunday night is likely to bring a real change. It’s not record cool, but the last day of August (Monday) may be the only day this month when almost all Front Range stations observe below-average temperature. It is not a particularly moist air mass behind the cold front, but at this point I can’t rule out some clouds and rain with the cooler air mass.

Heat, smoke, maybe thunderstorms next week

10:30 AM MDT, Saturday, August 22, 2020

Some local spots received some rain during the last couple days, but most of us did not see any rain of consequence. The chance for rain today and Sunday is nearly zero. By Monday, the chance for afternoon thunderstorms goes up a little once more, but the chance for any substantial rain at any one location will remain quite small into mid week.

 

Daily high temperatures this weekend will be near record. The record highs today and Sunday are 97 and 98 in Boulder, 98 and 98 in Denver, 95 and 98 in Fort Collins, and 92 and 94 in Cheyenne. Although there may be some more afternoon clouds Monday-Wednesday, afternoon highs well into the 90s are likely to continue for the urban corridor.

 

For a couple weeks we have been seeing and feeling the effects of smoke from fires in Colorado. Smoke from California fires is now in the middle atmosphere over the entire central Rocky Mountain region. Although the severity of smoke may vary from day to day, expect the smoke haze to continue.

 

I’m watching eagerly for the possibility of more widespread showery rains later next week. It certainly is not a done deal yet, but worth watching.

Will thunderstorms help?

12:50 PM MDT, Tuesday, August 18, 2020

There has been an increase in moisture in the middle part of the atmosphere, enough to result in the development of a few afternoon thunderstorms today, tomorrow, and Thursday, mainly in the mountains. Most of us will probably get by without any rainfall of consequence. A few isolated spots might get good and wet for a brief time.

Although it might seem the chance for rain is good given the fires, and it is, there is a down side. The lower atmosphere is dry and that can cause rain to evaporate before reaching the ground. The result is that some areas may get lightning and gusty winds, but little or no rain, resulting in new fires.

 

At this point it looks like the dry and hot pattern will continue through the weekend. Some of the longer range guidance from our weather models suggest a more substantial surge of moisture around 8-10 days from now. But that is far enough in the future that I wouldn’t bet on it just yet.

smoke info

A few of you have asked about air quality websites. I do the same thing that most of you probably do, search the web. Look for official sites like Colorado.gov.

 

I also like to look at satellite because smoke conditions change fast. The RAMMB Slider (google it) offers a range of satellite options and you can zoom in. The afternoon and early evening is the best time to look because that’s when fires are most active. The satellite won’t necessarily tell you how bad it is at ground level, but you can see which smoke plumes are activity growing and where they are going.

https://rammb-slider.cira.colostate.edu/?sat=goes-16&z=5&im=12&ts=1&st=0&et=0&speed=130&motion=loop&map=1&lat=0&opacity%5B0%5D=1&hidden%5B0%5D=0&pause=0&slider=-1&hide_controls=0&mouse_draw=0&follow_feature=0&follow_hide=0&s=rammb-slider&sec=full_disk&p%5B0%5D=geocolor&x=6145.5&y=3369

Western heat wave continues; a small moderation for the Front Range

10:30 AM MDT, Friday, August 14, 2020

A large upper level high centered over our region has kept it dry and hot. That upper high will strengthenĀ  but also shift westward a little so that it’s centered over Utah and Nevada. For the Front Range and eastern Colorado that means that some slightly less hot air may slip in from the northern plains every now and then over the next 5-7 days. In fact the first example of that is moving southward through eastern Colorado right now, and so today’s hot temperatures may top out early and then fall off a little this afternoon. But don’t expect any truly long-lived switch to cooler weather; we are still in a warm and dry pattern. If you are heading west for the weekend, record and near-recordĀ  hot temperatures are likely over western Colorado, Utah, and the Southwest.

 

Moisture

A slight increase in atmospheric moisture through the weekend may bring back the chance for some isolated late-day thunderstorms. But I expect most areas will not experience any rain of substance over at least the next five days. I hope I’m wrong.

Smoke

Many parts of the Front Range have been experience terrible air quality due to wildfires in western Colorado. I have good news and bad news about that. The good news is that as the upper high strengthens to our west, our winds above the surface will switch from west to more northwest or north. So smoke from the western Colorado fires will not drift this way anymore. The bad news is that with high fire danger throughout Colorado and Wyoming, new fires locally or to the north could be a new source of smoke. In fact a fire west of Fort Collins this morning is expanding as I write.

Enjoy the weekend, and be very careful with fire!

 

 

Hot, dry weather

12:45 PM MDT, Friday, August 7, 2020

If you are looking for a weekend with almost no chance for afternoon thunderstorms in Colorado, this may be your weekend. An anomalously dry air mass will be over the central Rockies region keeping the chance for afternoon thunderstorms at nearly zero. Lower elevation temperatures should get well into the 90s each day.

 

Monday will probably bring back some afternoon clouds and a small chance for rain. But in general, a warm and dry pattern will likely remain over us for at least a week.

 

Although some very localized parts of the Denver to Cheyenne corridor have benefitted from a good soaking at some point over the last 6 weeks, the pattern has been so dry that most areas have not. Denver’s official station at DIA has had less than 50% average rainfall in June and July and isn’t doing any better so far in August. Fort Collins had one of their driest Julys on record with a mere 0.15″ for the whole month. Boulder was about average in June, but measured only 0.34″ in July, or about 20% of average. Please use care with fire when you are out recreating!

A touch of the Southwest monsoon

8:20 AM MDT, Friday, July 24, 2020

One of the seasonal cycles that we look for each July is the Southwest monsoon (also called the Mexican monsoon and the North American monsoon). During this cycle intense thunderstorms form each day in the coastal mountains of Mexico and pump moisture into the atmosphere. That moisture gradually makes its way north in July and August into the southwestern U.S., sometimes as far north as Colorado, sometimes not that far. Late July and early August tends to be the peak time for monsoon moisture along the Front Range.

 

There has been a lot of westerly winds this month which has made for a weak or non-existent monsoon for the Front Range region. But today through early next week will likely see a couple intrusions of that monsoon moisture and more areal coverage of afternoon/evening showers and thunderstorms.

 

Long range forecast models suggest that by the last couple days of the month the Front Range will return to a hot and dry pattern. For now let’s hope for a some moisture for the local vegetation.