5/7/22 Saturday 7 am
Lately, most of the questions I get are about the wind. Winds can be seasonal, they can also be affected by the pattern that we are in, or just by storms. I moved to Durango in April of 2008. I was happy to be here, but everyone was complaining about the wind. April, I learned, was the beginning of the windy season, at least according to the long-term residents of the area.
If you feel like the winds have been worse than you have experienced in the past, you are mostly correct. I think that more people are sensitive to the winds in our area because our area has more people who enjoy the outdoors per capita than the rest of the US. We are constantly bombarded by the winds, whether hiking, cycling, or just going for a run or walk. Let’s face it, the wind sucks. I guess technically it blows…
So what causes the wind? The wind is caused by differences in atmospheric pressure. Seasonally, as the sun angle becomes higher in the sky the sun heats surfaces at a quicker rate than the surrounding air. It also heats those surfaces unevenly. When you think about the major temperature fluctuations just from overnight lows to daytime highs in the spring this makes sense. That is why we have seasonal winds.
Shouldn’t the winds be starting to subside? Here is where the pattern comes into play. All April I talked about the storm track clipping us to the north. That is continuing to happen. With the storm (low pressure) track to the north, it compresses the pressure gradient which enhances our winds.
Here is the current 500 MB chart (storm track). I have marked the low pressure with red L’s. The high pressure is the blue H’s. In green, I circled the compression of the pressure gradient. Those are tightly packed isobars indicating the windy conditions.
Fast forward to Tuesday. Look at that very high-pressure dome anchored over the northeast and the low in the western US. Fortunately, the differences in pressure are further away than this weekend, but it is a windy pattern.
Now that you know what to look for I will put the maps in motion from today until next Saturday when it looks like things will subside a bit.
So why is this pattern occurring? There are a number of factors that affect our weather. This pattern is closely associated with the classic La Nina. We have been in a La Nina pattern since June of 2020. La Nina is currently strengthening, and it looks like we will have some level of La Nina present until at least December.
My stance on La Nina and El Nino has always been the same. I think that people overestimate the effects of El Nino and La Nina on our (local) winters. Historically, El Nino winters have slightly higher precipitation than La Nina years. But, there are many exceptions to that and many other factors that equally influence our winters. Statistically, the heaviest snows we have had in SW Colorado have come in Enso neutral winters, or La Nada as some people now call them.
I hope that, despite the wind, everyone has a good week, and Happy Mothers Day to the Moms out there. My other daily updates will be out soon. Thanks for following and supporting the site!