Travelers driving over Loveland Pass did a double take as they witnessed snow falling onto the mountainside on Thursday.
The flakes came down between 2 and 5 p.m. in the afternoon, said Frank Cooper, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Less than an inch of snow fell down to about 11,000 feet — above the timberline — and melted quickly, he said.
“It was just a trace of snow, but it made for a nice picture,” Cooper said.
Between the second week of July and the third week of August is the most uncommon time of the year to see snow in the high Rockies, according to local weather experts.
“It’s not really, really rare — but it is unusual,” Cooper said.
The Colorado Climate Center doesn’t track historical data about summer snowfall in the area, but climatologists said they’ve had many reports of people seeing snow during the summertime in the High Country.
“They think it is remarkable and unprecedented,” said Nolan Doesken, the state climatologist at the Colorado Climate Center. “But it has happened and will happen. ... It’s a huge surprise for newcomers, and it’s less of a surprise for folks who have been around for a long time.”
What is rare are big, soft snowflakes falling in the summer months.
Doesken said he has inkling the “snow” that fell yesterday is more likely to be what weather experts refer to as graupel — a pyramid-shaped ice pallet.
“It’s not really pure snow,” he said. “It’s more like a soft hail.”
The precipitation yesterday was likely spurred by a thunderstorm.
“The bulk of our summer precipitation throughout July and August is what we call convective — bubbles of warm air rising,” Doesken said. These updrafts form clouds and initiate precipitation. Then, when downdrafts occur, they take the very cold air from up in the clouds and bring it down to lower elevations.
“Thunderstorms cause air temperatures in the mountains to drop rapidly, sometimes causing snow,” Doesken said.
Meteorologist Cooper said he doesn’t expect any more snow to fall in or near Summit County in the next week.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News