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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