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Old 04-13-2008, 10:51 AM
 
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In my years working as a pilot weather briefer, one of my favorite instructors was a guy who in his spare time was an amateur tornado-chaser, whose many photographs were copyrighted, and sometimes sold.

Anyway, I've often marveled at how benign the weather here is. It seems that nowadays, no place is being spared from extreme weather, including severe drought, floods, tornados, hurricanes, Santa Anas, mudslides, tsunamis, etc. Besides the very remote possibility of a volcanic eruption on the west side, what could possibly happen here?

This one comes to us, courtesy of the above-mentioned NWS instructor.

There is a weather phenomenon in which a cold air mass builds on the other side of the Sandias, one that dwarfs the usual cold air mass. Usually, the westward outlet for the air mass is through Tijeras Canyon. In this instance though, the air mass continues to build, and finally starts spilling over the crest. As the cold air moves down into the Heights, it picks up speed & momentum, reaching velocities as high as 150 m.p.h.

When I imagine this scenario, I imagine winds on the high end of hurricane force, hurling swamp coolers through pretty much anything in their path.

I was wondering if anyone else has ever heard of this scenario?
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Old 04-13-2008, 12:23 PM
 
Location: Chihuahuan Desert
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Glad I live at what would be the beginning of the wind....my swamp cooler will be safe.
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Old 04-13-2008, 01:31 PM
Status: "Lived in ABQ, NM 2004-08; MKE Metro, WI 2008-present" (set 16 days ago)
 
Location: Metro Milwaukee, WI
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That would be incredible indeed. Never heard of it, but I am certain that it could be a possibility. Q: Why would this happen in the Sandias, and not the other numerous cities by mountain chains? Would it be just because of the east-entrenched location of them with essentially plains branching out past the mountain / city?

150 mph is indeed incredible force. Probably the strongest gusts I ever witnessed in ABQ were in that 50 - 60 mph range - gusts that I also witness all the time here in MKE.

That scenario though, if true, would rank up there with me for one of my favorite "freak" weather events - not favorite of course in the sense that I ever hope it happens, but favorite in the sense of the immense power and respect and rarity that is weather in full force in a freak moment. My personal #1 is still the heat burst thing, where rumors have a place in South Texas going from I believe the 80s or so past midnight to about 140 degrees in 10 minutes or so...I would love to live through a heat burst as it would just be so surreal.
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Old 04-13-2008, 01:44 PM
 
Location: Albuquerque
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Tim Rankin

> ... reaching velocities as high as 150 m.p.h. ...
> I was wondering if anyone else has ever heard of this scenario?

I don't know if what you are describing is what follows, but it is plausible:

Frequently, you see clouds coming over the top of the Sandias as if they were a liquid (they are, actually) spilling from a 'bowl' on the other side.

The clouds can actually be seen flowing over the top like a wave or waterfall (cloudfall?).

The velocity of 150 mph might be such right at the crest and decrease with decreasing pressure as they descend the slope. As the wind pushes up the far side and spills over, there might be a venturi effect at work at the crest.

There is another phenomenon called a lenticular cloud:
Organ Snow on Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/thekorky/2317083419/ - broken link)
http://gallery.photo.net/photo/3379700-lg.jpg

This is caused by air speeding up over a mountain crest accompanied by a drop in pressure that brings out the cloud.
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Old 04-13-2008, 07:20 PM
 
Location: Albuquerque, NM
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That particular phenomenon is a new one on me, and I used to spend a lot of time with some very experienced local pilots. I would have expected to hear that one come up sooner or later as plane crashes and weather and new aircraft performance are about the only thing pilots talk about. I will say that I have seen what Mortimer described with the clouds 'spilling' over the crest. There are some very dramatic photos out there of it.

I will also say that it's never been lost on my wife and I how little we have to worry about in this area in the way of natural disasters. Nothing on the level of what's been described anyway. Being in between the earthquakes and fires of the west and the flooding and tornadoes of the east makes us very aware of how protected we are.

We're not tornado proof though. Not too long ago a tornado went through south of Albuquerque. I was near Cutler and San Mateo near I-40, glanced south and immediately saw the distinctive funnel in the distance. It was one of the long, thin ones, not one of the broad based monsters you see on the weather channel. I pulled over and watched it dance in the distance. It went through open ground, so as far as I remember, didn't cause much damage.
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Old 04-14-2008, 12:17 AM
 
Location: Sequim, WA
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What Tim is describing is a severe downslope wind event. These do happen in Albuquerque. In these cases, the cold air is spilling through Tijeras Canyon into the city, but is building depth at a faster rate east of the mountains. If the cold air tops the mountains, is very stable at mountain-top level, and has momentum (usually at least 30-50 mph component perpendicular to the mountain range), it sinks (flows) downslope and accelerates. In these events, the strongest winds are in the foothills region of the city, they're not at mountain-top level. The event of December 1987 peaked at 124 mph at the base of the Tram. The January 1990 event reached 107 mph in Glenwood Hills, less than a mile from the base of Embudito Canyon. There was a tremendous event in December 1943, but no instruments to measure the gusts in the foothills. That event produced SUSTAINED winds of 90 mph at the airport (they didn't measure gusts in those days). Recreation of the synoptic (weather) situation from old weather charts has been performed, and it suggests (though no one will ever really know) that wind gusts probably hit around 150 mph in the foothills in that event. But...no one lived in that region of the city in 1943. These events are akin to the severe downslopes that hit Boulder CO, although there are some significant differences. There hasn't been a really strong one in recent years. It's going to be interesting to see what happens to some of those large, east-facing windows in the High Desert subdivision when it happens.
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Old 04-14-2008, 12:36 AM
 
Location: Albuquerque, NM
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Great post! Thank you.
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Old 04-14-2008, 08:44 AM
 
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Thanks MrGoodWx for your post! I thought I remembered the instructor saying that these events had happened in the past, but he didn't say when.

Mort - We used to occasionally get the lenticulars back east, but not as often as out here. They can actually produce severe turbulence @ altitude up to 300 miles downstream. There are also rotor clouds, closer to the mtn-tops [downwind], that are typically more dangerous for smaller planes flying closer to the mtn. Kind of a rolling/rotating action that when you get into the downward air flow, can put you into the mtn pretty fast.
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Old 04-14-2008, 10:18 AM
 
Location: Albuquerque
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mrgoodwx blew us away: (heh)

> ... severe downslope wind event. ...

Very cool history, description, et al.

Are these predictable? If so, one or two days ahead? Hours?

< or >

Hey! It looks like we are having another downslope wind event! Batten down the hatches!

Also:

Tim Rankin warns about mountain dangers:

> ... when you get into the downward air flow, can put you into the mtn pretty fast.

I once saw a hot air balloon who got to a point where the pilot didn't think they were going to be able to land in the rocks of the foothills, so decided to fly *over* the Sandias.

I watched the balloon actually make it over (or so it appeared from my distant vantage point) and then disappear. I looked for something about it on the news or next day's paper, but didn't see anything.
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Old 04-14-2008, 12:29 PM
 
Location: Londonderry, NH
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The down wind rotor cloud is similar to a wing tip vortex only way way stronger. They are fairly frequent in teh mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire. The down slope winds seem similar to Los Angeles’s Santa Anna phenomena. The air should get warmer as it moves down slope.
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