Wild winter weather wallops Denver
Colorado has gone from 80 degrees and sunny to expecting 4 to 6 inches of snow in the course of 24 hours.
Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 8:59 AM
Record high temperature one day, wintry weather the next. That's life in Denver this week.
On Monday, the Colorado capital saw 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius), an Oct. 24 record for Denver, and yesterday the temperatures plummeted and it snowed.
Wild weather swings and an early winter chill occasionally hit this region of the Rockies, but the swing is usually spread out over several days, not in less than 24 hours.
"It's not unheard of, but this is a little more rapid than usual," said Matthew Kelsch, a hydrometeorologist at the University Corp. of Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colo.
'Tis the season for wild weather, said Joe Sobel, senior vice president of AccuWeather.com.
"Oftentimes in the fall and the spring there can be some wild weather swings along the Front Range in Colorado and Wyoming," Sobel told OurAmazingPlanet.
While Monday was balmy, the weather declined quickly on Tuesday. Temperatures dropped into the 20s F (around minus 7 C) tonight. The National Weather Service declared winter storm warning from 9 p.m. local time yesterday until today at 6 p.m. [Related: Coldest Places on Earth]
Blame the cold snap on a wiggly jet stream, the river of air that carries storms from west to east across the United States.
"There's a sharp dip going down now in the Western United States," Kelsch said.
Kelsch knows what it's like to experience these wild weather swings. On Sept. 13, 1993, he saw the weather drop from 90 F (32 C) to 31 F (minus 0.5 C) in 16 hours.
That storm brought only an inch (2.5 cm) of snow, but it was still a "total shock," Kelsch said.
"There was actually steam coming off the street because the pavement was so warm," he said.
Sobel said the weather tends to warm up in front of a major storm as it develops out over the Rockies and the Continental Divide, so that "when the cold air arrives, it will go rushing down the Front Range."
By Thursday the weather will swing up again, the National Weather Service predicted. So whatever snow accumulates won't stay there for long, Sobel said.
"Once the storms go on by and the sun comes back out, things will melt very rapidly," he said.
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