The eastern slopes of Colorado's Front Range and nearby plains are occasionally subject to severe downslope windstorms. These windstorms are not related to severe thunderstorms. Instead, they are caused by a special type of disturbance caused by air that is forced to flow over the mountains. Under certain conditions, these wave disturbances can amplify and propagate up into the atmosphere, causing extreme turbulence for aircraft. And when conditions are just right, the waves can accelerate air down the lee side of the mountain leading to extreme surface winds.
Downslope windstorms usually occur several times each year along Colorado's Front Range. Severe windstorms affect the Boulder area most frequently, but areas from Golden all the way up to Fort Collins are not immune. These storms can be quite localized, with the strongest winds only extending a few miles out onto the Plains, or sometimes just staying in the Foothills. In the winter, downslope winds are often characterized by unseasonably warm temperatures (sometimes leading to dramatic temperature rises), and are called Chinook winds. At other times, downslope windstorms occur under cold advection (e.g. during the passage of a Pacific cold front), and thus, are accompanied by falling temperatures. Then they are called Bora winds. Fort Collins seems to experiences their strongest winds from Bora-type events, while Boulder seems to get its most extreme winds during Chinook events.
The purpose of this page is to provide resources for watching current conditions for use during a downslope wind event. The causes of downslope windstorms are discussed on a separate page, click here.
Stations which frequently report high winds in downslope windstorms
Niwot Ridge Long Term
Ecological Research (LTER) Meteorological Data
3022 m (9,912 ft)
3259 m (10,692 ft)
(11,572 ft) Check out how the
weather looks via the
Station 3570 m
(11,712 ft) Located
in a valley, this station often reports colder temperature than the
stations up on the ridge
3739 m (12,264 ft)
This station is atop Niwot Ridge and often reports some of the highest
wind speeds of any station in Colorado
Glacier Station 3814 m
(12,513 ft) Also located in the
Green Lakes Valley
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