Colorado Weather Forecast #202: Thursday Update | July 7, 2022

Much drier on Friday and Saturday. Hot this weekend. Monsoonal moisture plume starts moving westward over the next week, with thunderstorm activity becoming less widespread in Colorado.

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Updated Thu Jul 7, 2022 4:30pm MST | Published Thu Jul 7, 2022

By Thomas Horner

Summary

  • Much less thunderstorm activity on Friday and Saturday thanks to a dry air intrusion.
  • Hot this weekend.
  • High pressure, which has mostly been to our east, starts building over the Four Corners region. In general, this will keep the deepest of the monsoonal moisture to the west of Colorado.
  • Due to that, consistent afternoon thunderstorm chances look continue into mid July in the high country, though not as widespread as the past couple weeks.
  • The I-25 corridor will also continue to struggle to pick up scraps of moisture from storms stepping off of the higher terrain.

Lightning Risk Grids

Retrospective

It’s good to see some healthy precipitation totals across most of Colorado over the past week!

As we mentioned last week, it looked likely that the Denver metro area / I-25 corridor would continue to get donut-holed, and with the exception of yesterday, this has largely been the case.

We’ve seen drought conditions improve across the higher terrain of Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.

If we take a look at satellite-based soil moisture measurements, it’s clear that the strong opening couple weeks of monsoon season have been quite good to New Mexico and southern Colorado.

However, this hasn’t really made much of a dent in the region’s pervasive, long-term drought.

We do have what looks to be another month of juicy moisture for the area, but as we mentioned in early June, we’re not too keen on the prospects for monsoon season to finish strong (August-September). Right now, let’s hope we can continue to consistently tap into southerly flow.

Forecast Discussion

Over the past few weeks, high pressure has been generally centered over the southern plains. Anticyclonic (clockwise) flow around this airmass has tapped into subtropical moisture near the surface and carried it northwards into the desert southwest. This is a fairly typical setup we see when the North American Monsoon has matured.

Here’s the satellite + chicken scratch from this morning:

On a mid-atmospheric ensemble forecast map, it looks like this:

We’ll be transitioning into another common seasonal pattern this week that tends to be less productive for Colorado. This pattern features high pressure building further to the west, over the Four Corners region:

If this dome of high pressure becomes particularly strong, we’ll see the subtropical moisture plume pushed well to the west of Colorado. That’s currently what model ensembles are expecting:

That’s not to say the atmosphere will regularly be bone-dry over Colorado, but eastern Colorado will certainly be scrounging for rain over the next couple weeks. Western Colorado and the San Juans should still have enough moisture to work with for consistent afternoon thunderstorm potential as we progress into mid July.

An exception is Saturday, which features a pronounced dry air intrusion over Colorado.

Looks like a decent day to get out if you’ve been scared off some more committing objectives over the past few weeks. High resolution modeling shows very little storm activity all day, except perhaps an isolated cell or two in the Sangres:

It will also be quite hot this weekend as warm air is advected into the Front Range. A weak cold front on Monday should mix this out.

By next week, we’ll be back to decent thunderstorm chances every afternoon in Colorado’s high country. Right now, we think the San Juans, Sangres, and Front Range hang on to the highest lightning risks as we progress into next week, but the difference between those ranges and other parts of Colorado are not that substantial. The least amount of activity will likely be in Grand Mesa and the Park Range.

Once again, it also looks like the urban corridor will have a prohibitive convective environment, with storms collapsing before they make it into town.

By late July, there’s a chance we’ll see high pressure scoot back to our east, which would allow for more widespread thunderstorm potential in Colorado and New Mexico. We’re rooting for that to happen, because as mentioned, we’re not too keen on August and September’s prospects.

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