Colorado Dust Storm on 4/22: One for the books

Tomer’s Take:

  • Friday 4/22/2022 was a day for the books. Wildfire danger hit “Very Extreme” for the first time in a decade.
  • Dewpoint and relative humidity values dropped into the single digits.
  • Record high of 89 in Denver. All-time April record is 90.
  • A major dust storm developed as wind gusts reached hurricane force for 5 hours in some places. This was essentially a Dust Hurricane.
  • A layer of dust was deposited on Colorado’s high mountain snowpack. This will have important Spring melt implications.
  • The jet stream has taken up residence in Colorado for the last 3 weeks. On 4/22 it delivered with 100mph winds aloft.

Look at this monster low pressure, 980mb on 4/23 at 11am. It extends from Canada to the Mexico border.

Infrared satellite 4/23/2022 11am.

Below is a visible satellite image (True Color VIIRS) and aerosol depth algorithm overlay (MODIS) from 4/22 afternoon. It’s used to estimate atmospheric aerosols – in this case it’s mostly dust and smoke represented in the yellow/orange/red colors.

This dust also reached the high mountain snowpack. Atmospheric flow through 14,000ft was consistent out of the southwest all afternoon.

This dust layer will accelerate the Spring melt.

For more background, I co-authored a paper in the NWA Journal of Operational Meteorology in 2010 on dirty snow/dust storms in Colorado.

Visible satellite and AOD overlay from 4/22/2022 afternoon. Dust/smoke/aerosols represented in yellow/orange/red colors.

Photo of the dust on Vail’s Back Bowls from Patrick McCarthy:

Max Gusts 4/22

  • 10-Mile Range: 70mph
  • Red Mountain Pass: 86mph
  • Monarch Mountain: 72mph
  • Wolf Creek Pass: 71mph
  • West Elks: 60mph+
  • Sangre De Cristo High Peaks: 90mph (estimate)
  • Rocky Flats: 90mph
  • NE Plains, Otis: 86mph
  • Buckley AFB: 74mph
  • Buena Vista: 72mph
  • Air Force Academy: 71mph

Below, wind history from Breckenridge Peak 8 on the 10-Mile Range, 12,998ft. Notice three straight days of 60mph+ wind gusts.

Peak 8 of the 10-Mile Range, Wind History 4/2022.

Dust Storm

Here’s video from my colleague Courtney Fromm:

Severe Weather CO/KS

My good friend Ryan Kushner went storm chasing on 4/22. He didn’t see any tornadoes (there were several reported in KS) but says they saw a big lightning show. He says blowing dust was a major problem.

Ryan Kushner and Jenn Mravich at Mount Sunflower, KS.

7 thoughts on “Colorado Dust Storm on 4/22: One for the books

  1. Susan Gadberry

    Thanks, Chris. Can you provide an explanation or link to an explanation for why dust accelerates spring snow melt? Love your forecasts!

  2. Lara Juliusson

    My spouse an I wondered if the runoff itself might be impacted by the dust? Will typical routes, perhaps between rocks/scree, become clogged and then new routes be created? Thoughts?

    1. christomer Post author

      Thanks, Lara. I include a link in the article to a paper I published about dust and Colorado’s snowpack. In short, dust increases the albedo and accelerates the snowmelt. Chris

  3. Donald G Szabo

    Off the cuff it seems to me the dust layer would slow a very rapid runoff , to acting as “sunscreen.” Perhaps a somewhat more controlled runoff would take place? Any real scientific people care to respond?

    1. christomer Post author

      Thanks, Donald. I include a link in the article to a paper I published about dust and Colorado’s snowpack. In short, dust increases the albedo and accelerates the snowmelt. Chris

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