Why is it so windy in Colorado Springs? The city of Colorado Springs, located at the base of the Rocky Mountains, is often recognized for its windy weather.
The city’s climate is characterized by its consistent windiness, rather than being a rare event.
One may wonder, what is the reason behind the high winds in Colorado Springs?
The solution can be found in the distinct atmospheric and geographical factors of the area. So, why is there so much wind in Colorado Springs?
Colorado Springs residents experience strong winds due to various factors such as the intricate dance between air pressure systems and the high-altitude positioning.
More about Weather Patterns in Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs enjoys a mild climate year-round with on average, 242 days of clear skies and sunshine even in the winter months.
The region is classified as an alpine desert with precipitation between 15 and 16 inches a year, including snowfall.
It tends not to snow until March and then Colorado Springs gets much less than nearby Denver.
Winter temperatures fluctuate but can reach 61F or go as low as 28F over the course of a week. It gets cold, wet and snowy but precipitation evaporates away fast in the sun.
Over the year, typical temperatures vary widely, from around 20F to 84F. The warmest weeks are from mid-June to early September.
As temperatures rise so does the chance of rain. August is the wettest month but there are chances of rain from March to October.
Fact: Humidity is almost always at 0% in Colorado Springs and the wind mostly blows from the west.
Why Is It So Windy in Colorado Springs?
It is easy to notice that Colorado Springs is among the windiest places in the country, and it is mainly due to various factors:
This huge city stands a mile above sea level at the foot of a 14,115ft mountain, Pikes Peak in the Southern Rockies.
With mountains to its west, the Palmer Divide dividing the continent to the north, plains to the east and desert south, Colorado Springs experiences microscale climates.
And that is why it tends to be windy.
The Impact of Location
Colorado Springs is located on the Front Range.
This line of impressively sized mountains on the continental divide forms an escarpment ridge that includes Pike’s Peak and separates Colorado Springs from Denver.
It is also an urban corridor with a population of almost 5 million and situated under a jet stream running west to east, perpendicular to the mountains.
It is windy most of the time, more so in spring, as the mountains act as a barrier and squeeze and funnel the air currents through its canyons and between the skyscrapers of the city.
The Role of the Venturi Effect
Due to the Venturi Effect, very fast-moving winds form, gusting in many directions. The effect forces down the air pressure which speeds the winds up.
These winds display typical characteristics and have names.
They can be:
- Bora, a down-sloping wind
- Derecho, a thunderstorm down-blast
- Chinook, which is a down-sloping wind off the mountains
The Proximity to the Mountains
Colorado Springs sits in a central region of the US. High above it the air masses moving in from the cold Atlantic meets the warm air moving in from the Pacific.
It is a region rich in weather fronts as the atmosphere is disrupted by updrafts pushed up and over Pike’s Peak, a very steep-sided mountain.
Its winds are a characteristic feature as the air moves in response to differences in temperatures and air pressures above the varied terrain.
The wider the difference, the gradient, and the faster the air moves to try and equalize it.
An Important Consideration
Gradients are steep over Colorado Springs. For most of the year the prevailing westerly winds blow in from Canada across the flat plains.
There’s nothing to stop them until the currents hit the many surfaces of the Front Range, forcing changes in speed and direction.
The Role of Chinook Winds
Chinook winds bring warm, moist air towards the Rockies and Colorado Springs from the Pacific.
This type of wind occurs in many parts of the world when a warm air mass cools as it is forced high up into the range where it dumps its precipitation on the range’s peaks.
Now dry and warming rapidly, the air falls down the side of the mountain. Colorado Springs chinook winds fall down the eastern side of the Rockies with winds exceeding 40 mph.
They eventually become hotter than the original Pacific air mass reaching as much as 50F with a 5.5 degree Fahrenheit increase per thousand feet.
They gust dangerously, with speeds of 80 mph recorded.
An Important Consideration
Chinook winds are called the ‘snow-eaters’, they blow so hot they melt snow fast and it evaporates rather than melts.
They gather force as they gather heat and the momentum from the falling air mass behind it pushes down the slopes towards the high plains.
It develops rapidly to dominate the usual winds, creating more turbulence as the air temperature also rises dramatically. They also add to the risk of wildfires.
Fact: Nearby Boulder County has battled two major fires in recent years, one in 1990 and another in 2009 destroying 3000 hectares each.
Impact of the Jet Stream
It was the impact of the jet stream that made all of Colorado particularly windy in April 2022.
The jet stream ‘locked’ overhead and lining up several storms but the experts were not predicting rain, the storm track was holding too far North in the jet stream.
Because of the Earth’s rotation, jet streams blow west to east, sometimes shifting a little to the north or south.
These narrow bands of air impact most of what takes place in the atmosphere.
They form at the boundaries of air masses where warm air meets cold and there is a strong jet stream over Colorado sitting in the mid-latitudes.
Jet streams follow the sun’s elevation and shift poleward in spring and back again in fall as the elevation lowers.
An Important Consideration
During the daylight as the ground is warmed by the sun, columns of rising and falling air pull air out of the jet stream down to the Earth’s surface.
At night, the cool air settles just above the cool ground and the winds die away.
Fact: The jet stream over Colorado crosses over the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Rockies.
The wind is caused by the different materials that make up the Earth’s surface warming unevenly in the sun.
Being linked with the sun, winds blow in cycles, daily and seasonally.
In winter, the Coloradoan climate is influenced most by its prevailing westerly wind when the temperature difference at the tropics and poles creates a strong mid-latitude jet stream.
This Polar Jet Stream is the result of air pressure gradients that force the air to move in waves with low-pressure troughs and high-pressure ridges south of Canada.
It usually brings rain to Colorado Springs.
An Important Consideration
April is the windiest month with wind speeds reaching 10mph.
It’s also the wettest but in 2022 unusually strong winds moved the pressure system on and the spring rain missed the whole Denver area.
The Threat of Climate Change
Climate change is suspected, although it could prove the onset of another La Nina as ocean temperatures continue to rise.
Being close to the mountains and under the jet stream, La Nina has impacted Colorado Spring’s weather before. It could happen more often.
The over dry conditions are cause for concern and there are fears that the local weather pattern, already erratic, is changing.
Nearby Broomfield and Boulder report afternoon winds gusting over 20 mph more frequently.
Certainly, the winds around Colorado Springs have the potential to be even more dangerous.
Monarch Pass bordering Gunnison and Chaffee holds the record with gusts of 148 mph recorded.
Fact: The windiest time of the year in Colorado is over six months long, lasting from November to June.
Why is it so windy in Colorado Springs?
Well, Colorado Springs is windy because of many factors, but a distinct combination of geographic and atmospheric elements play the biggest role.
The city’s gusty conditions are a result of the complex interplay of weather systems caused by its high altitude and proximity to the Rocky Mountains.
In short, the intricate dynamics of our natural world are responsible for Colorado Springs’ reputation for being windy, as these factors combine to create this seemingly simple weather phenomenon.