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Old 05-22-2012, 04:55 PM
 
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Interesting and informative post.
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Old 05-22-2012, 06:07 PM
 
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Last summer, when I vacationed in Ridgway in June, it was wildly humid and you could see the storm clouds gathering every day by noon. There were some very impressive deluges, one so intense I couldn't see well enough to get off 550 towards Montrose.
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Old 02-10-2013, 06:22 PM
 
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Jazzlover, what town would be the best for T-storms, loveland or windsor? do either towns have an outdoor warning system?
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Old 02-10-2013, 07:01 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by future texan View Post
Jazzlover, what town would be the best for T-storms, loveland or windsor? do either towns have an outdoor warning system?
Probably Loveland, since it is a little closer to the foothills, but neither is a "hot spot."

Maybe this will help you. This technical paper discusses lightning climatology of Colorado.

http://www.vaisala.com/en/events/ild...20Colorado.pdf

Note this paragraph:

Quote:
Another rather surprising minimum in lightning activity
is located over the Plains, east of the Colorado Front
Range and north of the Denver Metropolitan area.
This minimum is likely due to a predominantly
divergent lower level wind flow regime which develop
relatively frequently over this region.
I don't know what outdoor warning systems either town has. I do know that when I lived in SE Wyoming, the outdoor warning systems only covered the more densely populated in town areas of places like Cheyenne, and not that well at that. Most people, me included, had NOAA weather radios that would "squawk" if a severe thunderstorm or tornado warning was issued for the area. Mine would go into alert mode numerous times each summer and I did see some hellacious storms. People from the Great Plains area know this well, but one thing that really surprised people from areas where severe thunderstorms were not frequent was how quickly they could "fire" in places like SE Wyoming, NE Colorado (especially toward Colorado's eastern border), and western Kansas and Nebraska. Many times, in SE Wyoming, it would go from having almost no clouds in the sky at Noon to a Severe Thunderstorm Warning/Tornado Watch by 3 PM. I personally watched thunderstorms "fire" with vertical development being measured in thousands of feet per minute. You also can't imagine the damage that baseball or grapefruit-size hail can do--roofs wrecked and cars totaled in seconds. That is why homeowner's and comprehensive auto insurance is so expensive in Hail Alley. By the way, the 1990 Front Range hailstorm ranks as one of the most expensive single-storm weather events in US history for property damage.
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Old 02-11-2013, 10:36 PM
 
Location: Pluto's Home Town
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Great thread. I have always loved thunderstorms, but I must say, after a summer doing fieldwork in the higher elevations of the San Juans and Sangre de Cristos, I realized there can sometimes be too much of a good thing. Sure a lot in those mountains, just about every day.

Interestingly, having done a fair bit of fieldwork in the Sierra Nevada, Klamath, and Oregon Cascades, and Colorado Rockies. Lower to mid elevations are much lusher in the Sierra and especially the Cascades, trees are huge and rivers majestic. Approaching timberline, it gets downright deserty in the Sierra. In the San Juans, it is precisely the opposite. Dry at low to mid elevations, with spindly trees, but lush and gardenlike above about 10,000'. All those thunderstorms really do the job in the Colorado high country.
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Old 02-12-2013, 06:16 PM
 
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^The water content of Sierra and Cascade snow is much higher than that in inland mountain ranges such as the San Juans of Colorado. That said, the Sierras and Cascades live or die on what precipitation falls from late fall to late spring. The summer brings only a minuscule percentage of the annual precipitation to those ranges. Not surprisingly, the high altitude areas above timberline in the Sierras and Cascades, where dessication and evaporation of water tends to be highest, suffer in the dry summer months. In Colorado, especially the southern half of the state, the Southwest Monsoon can bring enough precipitation in most years to keep the high country green, though it is not enough to contribute much to streamflows. Unfortunately, Colorado's inland location away from oceanic water sources for the atmosphere also means that the moisture supply in all seasons is much less reliable than in areas close to the seacoast. It appears that our current climatic pattern--whether natural, man-made or a combination of the two (I favor the last theory)--is magnifying that variability greatly. That is going to place very extreme stress on a lot of the plant, animal, and human populations in this region that evolved when the temperature and precipitation regime was less variable.
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Old 02-12-2013, 07:24 PM
 
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Good post Jazz. You obviously know it well. Being a licensed pilot, I'm very familiar with the lifting forces in the atmosphere that lead to the development of thunderstorms. Here in PA, we typically see frontal thunderstorms with cold air over running warm moist air as a front passes. The standard temperature lapse rate in the atmosphere is 4 degrees Fahrenheit per 1,000 feet of altitude increase. The over running cold air causes a drastic increase in that rate. Once that lapse rate increases, it triggers instability & convection, the lifting force that along with the moisture in the warm air that rises within that air and starts the convective machine that drives the violent weather. We also see convective thunderstorms in the heat iof the summer as a result of daytime heating of the earth & high humidity levels, again causing a lapse rate higher than standard and the upward rush of warm, humid air.

To pilots, the front range is notorious for dangerous weather. Mountain flying is in itself a somewhat dangerous endeavor because of the wind currents, the lifting along the ridges causes swirling and downdrafts that small aircraft are virtually powerless against, lenticular clouds that form on the leeward side of ridges being chief indicators of the presence of these conditions. In addition, the high density altitudes result in less lift by flying surfaces and less power developed by (normally aspirated) powerplants. This results in longer takeoff runs & landing rollouts. Too many pilots fail to plan for this and suffer terrible fates as a result.

Along the front range, the mountains provide a lifting force for the winds blowing from the west, while the warm moist air coming up from the gulf with the expansion of Bermuda highs just feeds moisture into that lifting force that is at it's zenith as the air passes over the ridges of the front range. Once formed, the storms march eastward across the plains like freight trains.

Some of the roughest flights I have ever piloted have been in the non-winter months when the sun heating the darker areas of the earth below causes rising columns of air that bounce the plane around like you're in a Home Depot paint mixer. The only way to escape is to climb. Altitude lessens the effects as the temperature of the rising columns of air begins to cool and the lapse rate again returns closer to the standard rate. I have had some flights where especially while in the traffic pattern, the up & down movement of the aircraft passing through these rising columns of warm air was so pronounced that it was difficult to see the instruments. You just focus on keeping the wings level, the airspeed low enough to avoid undue stress on the aircraft, yet high enough to avoid danger of stalling, and get that aircraft safely on the ground.

Convection and aircraft don't mix. When it comes to thunderstorms, there are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.
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Old 02-13-2013, 02:04 PM
 
Location: Pluto's Home Town
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SoButCounty View Post
.....there are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.
This saying says a lot. I can see its wisdom...
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Old 02-13-2013, 08:17 PM
 
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The father of one of my good friends was killed years ago in a small plane crash in SE Wyoming caused by those Front Range convection currents. A very experienced pilot, he was the victim of what we now know as Clear Air Turbulence caused by those currents.

Back in the late 1970's I was on a flight from the Western Slope to Denver when the Frontier plane I was on was hit by Clear Air Turbulence about 80 miles southwest of Denver. If I had been flying on one of the small commuter aircraft used today, I wouldn't be here to write this--the turbulence would have torn the plane apart. As it was, I was flying on one of the old Convair 580's--one extremely tough mountain airplane. The CAT tore the plane up pretty good, but we made it into Denver. All of which made me appreciate that other old aviation saying that, "Any airplane landing that you walk away from is a good landing."
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Old 02-14-2013, 01:29 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
The father of one of my good friends was killed years ago in a small plane crash in SE Wyoming caused by those Front Range convection currents. A very experienced pilot, he was the victim of what we now know as Clear Air Turbulence caused by those currents.

Back in the late 1970's I was on a flight from the Western Slope to Denver when the Frontier plane I was on was hit by Clear Air Turbulence about 80 miles southwest of Denver. If I had been flying on one of the small commuter aircraft used today, I wouldn't be here to write this--the turbulence would have torn the plane apart. As it was, I was flying on one of the old Convair 580's--one extremely tough mountain airplane. The CAT tore the plane up pretty good, but we made it into Denver. All of which made me appreciate that other old aviation saying that, "Any airplane landing that you walk away from is a good landing."
To appreciate the winds & currents generated by the mountains, one need look no further than the 737 crashes at Co Spgs airport over the years. The wind direction changes so fast while the 737's were on final approach they lost all airspeed, flipped, and literally fell out of the sky.

Another saying, there is nothing more useless to a pilot than the runway behind him & the sky above him.

Dangerous currents while on final approach in low airspeed, high drag situations like final approach are particularly dangerous because there is not enough altitude to recover from any of the unusual attitudes that the aircraft could end up in. At least small aircraft have a relatively instant dose of power available by pushing the throttle forward. In a turbine powered aircraft like a large passenger jet, there is a lag between pushing throttles and getting the power you need because the turbines need time to spool up. That's why when landing and the flaps are deployed on final while at low airspeed, you'll hear & feel the captain throttle up a bit to keep the turbines spinning faster and enable a quick dose of power & airspeed if he needs it. Deploying flaps causes a huge increase in drag so the increased throttle keeps the airspeed up in the safe zone adding a margin of safety for maneuvering and approach while close to the ground.
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