A Slow Transition Ahead

Today there is a slight chance of a few storms developing, especially in the higher elevations. After a bone dry day yesterday, some moisture has started to filter in from the southwest. The models are showing a slight uptick in surface CAPE this afternoon. CAPE is the energy in the atmosphere necessary to develop thunderstorms. Here are the max CAPE values in Durango today.

CAPE at noon


500 is usually the minimum where you can see development. You can’t help but notice the values on the Front Range between 3000-5000. This means severe weather is nearly a guarantee.

A couple of parameters I don’t use for our area are fun to look at today with these very high CAPE values across the NE plains of Colorado.

Here is the Significant Tornado Parameter (STP or SigTor) for this afternoon. This is a multi-component index which combines many values (including CAPE) and determines the possibility of a F2 or higher tornado developing. It is similar to what the Weather Channel calls the “TORCON” index.


Again, this is something I would never use in SW Colorado but it is fun (in a geeky way) to look at.

We are going to be slowly transitioning back to afternoon thunderstorms for the high country. These are not monsoonal, they are considered high altitude heat-based thunderstorms. They can but don’t always produce rain, a few of them occasionally drift off the mountains and remain intact over the lower elevations. Not monsoonal, not yet.

A couple of days ago I was talking about us easing into what appears to look like precipitation with more a monsoonal signature to it after the 21st. It is very difficult to track this pattern change, it always is. It usually defies the models. So the period after the 21st is just what I am seeing now, it could start earlier or later.

It is best to use a multi-model approach when looking that deep into the crystal ball. Here are the latest 15-day precipitation forecasts from the big three multi-models. The Euro is slowly coming around.

Euro DGO .44″, Telluride 1.55″ Cortez .24″









If you are somewhere today where a storm develops let me know. Thanks for your support and thanks for following the site!

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Dog Days Of Durango

I don’t hear the term “dog days of summer” anymore so if you are young you may not have heard it. It refers to ancient Greece when Sirius (the dog star) rose in alignment with the sun and they believed it contributed to the heat this time of year. The period lasts from roughly the end of June to the end of July. Of course, this theory was proven false many years ago.

I have been very busy this week, and there has not been a lot to talk about so I have not posted. If the weather was more active I would have found the time to keep everyone updated.

The short term looks very hot and very dry. Saturday and Sunday we should see the hottest temperatures of the season. Saturday we will see mid to upper 90s below 7,000 feet. Mid elevations will reach the lower 90s and Purgatory may reach the upper 80s.

A large trough will be coming onshore which may trigger some convection Sunday afternoon. At this time I don’t see any chance of rain reaching the ground with the exception of mountain ridge tops.

It looks like we will be locked in this pattern until around July 21st. Several long-term models show us evolving into a more moist pattern.

Here is the long term Canadian multi-model run showing the 7-day precipitation total ending July 25th.




Here is the same data run from the US GEFS multi-model.



The Euro also picks up on the trend but it will be a couple days before we can track the same period because its model does not have as long a term of run time. What is encouraging here is that if you look at where the precipitation is accumulating you can see that it appears to a monsoon signature to it. What is also encouraging is that all of the models are picking up on it.

So hang in there, it takes a lot to break a dry pattern or a wet pattern because soil moisture results in feedback. In other words, dry soils inhibit moisture and wet/saturated soils encourage precipitation. Thanks for your support and for following I will update again on Sunday

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Similar To Yesterday

As I mentioned Friday morning, today looks potentially a little more active than yesterday which wouldn’t be difficult because most of the activity Friday was suppressed. Today, the sun is out and the CAPE is forecasted to be higher than yesterday and all of the moisture is still in place. There also appears to be a small disturbance moving across the western slope which could add some instability this afternoon.

Here is the CAPE from noon to 1pm


From 2-3 pm it maxes out. A few areas approach 1100.


3-4 pm. You can see below that Cortez and Durango start dropping and Pagosa hits its max. This leads me to believe the model is anticipating the piece of energy in the atmosphere tracking across.


The model does not show widespread significant precipitation except for a bullseye over the La Platas and Hermosa Wilderness. Depending on how that goes it could lead to debris flows in the burn scar areas.


Screenshot 2020-03-12 at 11.43.57 AM

Simulated future radar actually shows a storm retraining (remaining in place) over that area for a couple hours from 1-4 pm.

My best guess for rain in the lower and mid-elevations this afternoon would be anywhere people are enjoying outdoor activities and backyard barbecues.

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Everything Points Towards A Stormy Afternoon But…

Light showers have developed to our west, southwest, and north. Clouds have moved in earlier than expected, and cloud cover can suppress storm development. So while the high-resolution model shows all of the necessary ingredients in place, the clouds are shaking my confidence slightly with the forecast.

Here are the noon CAPE and PWATs. PWATs-Precipitable Water values are how much liquid would accumulate if it fell in a vertical column at once over on location.



PWATs-.70″ at DRO is 160% of normal for this time of year.


Here are the 4 pm values.



PWATs-.86″ is 180% of normal.


7 pm


PWATs-.94″ is 190% of normal


So we have CAPE (available energy in the atmosphere), and significantly high PWATs, all of the necessary ingredients. Ideally, we would get some strong surface heating, but this time of year, even with cloud cover, the high angle of the sun can contribute enough heating to enhance convection. We will see.

At the moment, tomorrow looks similar to today, if not slightly more active. As always, email me your reports. Thanks for following!

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Famous Last Words

I left off on Tuesday morning with “I will do a full update this afternoon”. Little did I know at the time I would spend all that afternoon and this morning in iPhone upgrade hell, spending most of my time on hold with Verizon. Reduced hours and workforce because of COVID they say. The least they could do is have more hold music. Nope, they had a 45-second instrumental clip of what resembled an old Christina Aguilera song that played over and over and over. Eventually, I would get through to a rep, they would explain that everything was fine on their end of things. They would tell me a thing to try that “should take care of it”. I asked, “what if it doesn’t work?” “Just call back” was their response. Of course, I would have to call back, wait on hold another 45 minutes, listen to the same damn song over and over, then explain everything again to the new person. After 5 or so hours of this, I was exhausted and not in a great mood to put it lightly.

They open at 8 am now, so I started over this morning. Finally, the fourth person I spoke with of the morning figured it out. Do they not all have the same information? Why did I have to speak with 9 different people before someone figured it out?

So that is my excuse…

On to the weather (or lack of), what a great day yesterday! It was definitely a “that’s why we live here” day. The heat is going to return as are isolated high elevation thunderstorms Thursday afternoon. Friday and Saturday the storms should be scattered. What’s the difference? It is coverage. It goes from least likely to most likely.

Isolated, Scattered, Widespread, Likely.  I am sure they are developing new classifications as we speak.  NOAA loves classifications. We used to have only 3 levels of drought. We never used to name tropical depressions. Not anymore. Why keep things simple when we can complicate things?

So Thursday isolated, Friday and Saturday scattered. The Euro has been trending a little wetter in the last couple of days. The GFS is still wetter than the Euro. The GFS is also still trying to get the monsoonal signature in place as early as late next week. 8-10 days is a little past my comfort zone, especially with the GFS. We will take it when it comes. I do think we will have a better chance at a monsoon season this year than we did last year.

I will update before 9 am Thursday on CAPE values. Thanks for following and listening to my rant!

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Tuesday Early Smoke Update

I have not been sleeping that well lately. I was on the computer all day, I checked one last time for fire starts then feeling reasonably comfortable with conditions I ate dinner and went to bed early without checking my email, which is unusual but not unheard of for me. I slept great and woke up to a full email box. Thanks for all your reports, sorry I didn’t check email before I went to sleep.

Most of you probably know by now that the smoke was coming from a fire in Arizona.


Here is a good link to bookmark, it is a link to the site above.


I will do a full update this afternoon.

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Monday Fire Update And The First Look At The Weekend

Today I will talk a little about the Spring Fire west of Cortez and the Yellow Jacket Fire which is west of Lewis and south-southwest of Yellow Jacket.

The Spring fire interestingly enough was picked up on Satellite before the Morefield (Mesa Verde) fire. I saw it on there and since no one was talking about it online I thought it was an anomaly or just some controlled burning on a ranch. Last night I finally read about it, but it was being treated as a “new” fire. Anyway here it is, and it looks like it has been very active today. Those red dots are all new growth, or at least new activity.


The Yellow Jacket fire really blew up yesterday. So far Satellite has not picked up on new activity but that data can lag 3-6 hours.



The gusty winds today are in response to a tightening of the pressure gradient. What does that mean? It means there is a trough of very unseasonably low pressure and accompanying cold front to our northwest fighting against a warmer ridge of high pressure. Here is what that looks like. This was the Euro’s depiction of pressure thickness and precipitation as of noon today.


That 552 low you see in the circle going from Nevada to Utah as well as Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho show a possible snow level down to 8,000 feet!

Most of the cold air will pass to our north but Tuesday’s high temps should be the lowest we will see for quite a while.

As far as the weekend goes, there is no model agreement. In fact, it is not even close. The GFS shows heavy wetting rains for Sunday afternoon while the Euro shows precipitation only in the highest locations, with a dry weekend for most.

On Saturday when a few areas got rain and thunderstorms I was asked if it was Monsoon related. The answer was no, not even a little bit. The first Monsoonal signature I can see in the distant future is on the GFS around July 13th.


That is almost textbook.  Notice the heavy rains from Mexico into southern Arizona?  Do you see that 582mb low in western Arizona, eastern California and southern Nevada? Lows rotate counter-clockwise and channel that precipitation into the Four Corners, aided by a 1016mb surface high pressure rotating the precipitation clockwise into the region.

Does that mean that is going to happen? Not necessarily, it is two weeks away. I am simply showing you how I can tell the difference between Monsoon and Nonsoon.

Next update Tuesday afternoon, thanks for following!

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Sunday Update & Info On the Morefield Fire

Quieter weather is on tap for today. The nine fire starts yesterday were a lot to take. CAPE will be low for most of the border counties (Montezuma, La Plata, Archuleta).

Here are today’s max CAPE values for our area, they occur at noon.

nam-nest-conus-colorado-cape-3367200 (1)

As is the case with most new fires, early information is difficult to come by. Through the VIIRS fire detection satellite, I was able to track down the location more specifically. It is a little over 10 miles SW of Mancos.

Morefield Fire

In addition to the remoteness, the other good news is the lack of fuels and huge fire breaks that will keep it from spreading.


There is no meaningful precipitation in the forecast but it looks like a nice cool down is on the way for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Thanks for all of the reports on the fires yesterday! The next update will be Monday afternoon!

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What Is CAPE And Why Should I Care About It?

With all of the fire activity this month, I have picked up a number of new followers. So I will try to do a better job of explaining some of the terms that I take for granted using so often. When I refer to CAPE I am referring to Convective Available Potential Energy. CAPE values display how much energy is available in the atmosphere for thunderstorms to develop and strengthen. The model displays a number to an area or displays a color that you match up to the chart below the map to determine the number. In our area, I watch for anything over 500.CAPE does not necessarily mean rain, although heavy rain can fall during a severe thunderstorm. More on that another day.

Here are the CAPE values between 10 am and 11 am.


The CAPE values are 29 in Durango, 200 in Cortez, 709 in Telluride, 39 in Pagosa, 435 in Montrose. If you match the colors up you can see that an area from the La Platas to Silverton is already in 700-900 range. Usually, the higher you go in elevation the earlier you have elevated CAPE values.

Between 1 pm and 2 pm the lower and mid-elevations get in on the act.


You probably notice the high values out on the Eastern Plains. That is because there is more moisture available, moisture and heat fuel CAPE.

4 pm to 5 pm


6 pm to 7 pm


7 pm to 8 pm


9 pm to 10 pm


In the absence of any fronts or other weather-related features, CAPE typically decreases in the evening. That is not the case with this model run. After about 8-10 hours from the model run time, I lose confidence in the model’s ability to forecast CAPE. In this case, the model run time was 6 am this morning. Therefore anything after 4 pm, I don’t have as much confidence as I do with the earlier forecasted values.

If your new and have questions feel free to contact me and I will cover it the next time I post. All that I ask is you contact me through the blue contact link below.

Thanks for following. Based on what I am seeing this morning it would be a good day for spotter reports!

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