Colorado Weather Forecast #198: Monday Update | June 20, 2022

Southern Colorado and New Mexico remain favored for heavy precipitation into next weekend, which features a strong cold front (highs in the 70s for the Front Range) and another shot of deep moisture. Before then, best thunderstorm chances are on Thursday.

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Updated Mon Jun 20, 2022 4:00pm MST | Published Mon Jun 20, 2022

By Thomas Horner

Summary

  • Southern Colorado got widespread precipitation this weekend as advertised, but northern Colorado struggled.
  • An upper-level low is grazing the region a bit earlier than expected, so clearer skies today and a weak cold front tomorrow for the Front Range.
  • Large swath of rain and thunderstorm potential in southern Colorado and New Mexico from Tuesday to Friday as subtropical moisture continues to be transported into the desert southwest. Otherwise, warming for eastern Colorado after Tuesday.
  • A weak mid-level shortwave significantly increases thunderstorm potential on Thursday across the mountains. Isolated thunderstorms possible to the east of the Divide.
  • Next weekend: Strong cold front pushes into Colorado. The Front Range may not see temperatures warmer than the 70s. Significant push of monsoonal moisture (potentially with some help from a tropical storm) into the state, widespread precipitation chances in southern Colorado and decent precipitation chances elsewhere.
  • Long range outlook shows a similar pattern into the start of July.

Lightning Risk Grids

Retrospective and Current Conditions

Satellite imagery today shows clear skies over much of the desert southwest, though a plume of moisture is still located over New Mexico.

Model guidance from our forecast on Thursday had this plume of moisture further west today, but the upper-level low that was to our west has pushed into region quicker than expected.

This means that our expected thunderstorm potential for today has been relegated to New Mexico.

More about that in a second.

Let’s take a look at how the forecast for extensive precipitation and thunderstorms for the weekend played out. In general, southern Colorado and the desert southwest got the advertised amount of subtropical moisture, which is very good news. Satellite-based sensors are not currently detecting any major fire spread for the Pipeline fire (Flagstaff, AZ) or the Hermits Peak fire (Las Vegas, NM).

Moisture did struggle to make it into northern Colorado, and we feel the forecast was a bit of a bust for that part of the state as well as the Front Range.

Lightning was widespread and a major issue throughout the high country, except for some popular mountain ranges – namely the Elk Mountains and many of the mountains around Summit County (the northern Sawatch, Gores, Tenmile Range, and southern Front Range). We haven’t seen anything specifically, but we’re sure this resulted in some grumbling about an unnecessarily pessimistic forecast!

Forecast Discussion: This Week

The upper low over our region is currently lifting to the northeast. This wont impact our weather too much, but it’s likely we’ll see a weak cold front push southwards down the Front Range. This will moderate temperatures quite nicely on Tuesday.

Also note extensive subtropical moisture over New Mexico. The jet will help transport a skinny band of this moisture over southern Colorado. This would impact the southeastern Colorado plains from Limon and south to the border. In the high country, expecting impacts for Raton Pass, the southern Sangres, and southern San Juans. High resolution modeling is showing some strong, potential severe thunderstorms over the San Juans and southern Sawatch (Monarch Pass) on Tuesday.

Most of Colorado (except the northwest corner of the state) should see extensive cloud cover into Wednesday, but precipitation will be limited to the immediate area around where that moisture plume sets up.

From Wednesday to Friday, the center of high pressure to our east (currently over the Mississippi Valley) bobbles to the west a bit (over Texas/Oklahoma). This will promote warmer temperatures east of the Divide, though nothing like the heat wave we saw last week – just 5-10 degrees over seasonal averages.

Colorado’s mountains will remain cooler as subtropical moisture continues to work its way northward from the Mexican Plateau into the desert southwest. A tropical storm off the coast of Baja California could provide an additional source of moisture as we get closer to the weekend.

Western Colorado and the high country face decent afternoon thunderstorm chances from Wednesday to Friday thanks to the ongoing transport of moisture into the area. The best chances come on Thursday thanks to a mid-level shortwave passing through the region.

Forecast Discussion: Next Weekend

High pressure moves eastwards a bit as we get into next weekend, which should allow for more moisture to reach eastern Colorado. Otherwise, moisture will continue to surge into the desert southwest. Some areas will have been experiencing widespread rain and thunderstorms for over a week! One of these favored locales is the southern end of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in New Mexico, where the Hermits Peak fire has been raging.

These areas will also see cooler temperatures than average thanks to the precipitation and cloud cover.

Speaking of cooler temperatures, there is decent model agreement in regards to a significant cold front next weekend which would impact areas to the east of the Divide.

Highs on Saturday may top out in the 70s for the Front Range and urban corridor, and may even struggle to get into the 70s on Sunday!

Otherwise, eastern Colorado and the Front Range don’t look to have particularly exciting precipitation chances, even by the weekend, but isolated thunderstorm potential looks like an increasingly safe bet.

To sum up the weekend: Scattered thunderstorms in the Colorado high country, and unseasonably cool temperatures across the state. Depending on the track of an upper-level disturbance and a tropical storm off the Baja California coast, we could see the forecast transition to more of a washout especially Sunday to Monday.

Looking beyond that – still seeing a similar large-scale pattern over the United States, which would promote the ongoing monsoonal moisture pulses into the desert southwest.

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