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Heather’s Weather Whys: Denver’s big drop

We get some wild weather in Western New York, but Denver wins bragging rights after what happened there last week.
Credit: WGRZ

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Imagine going to bed with temperatures in the upper 80s, then waking up the next morning with temperatures in the 30s and wet snow falling.

That’s what folks on the Front Range of the Rockies went through last Monday into Tuesday. 

The high temperature the previous Saturday, just three days earlier, was a record-setting 101 degrees. The tumble down into temperatures cold enough for snow happened faster than ever previously recorded in the Mile High City. The old record-shortest time between triple digit heat and falling snow was 25 days.

RELATED: East Coast snow vs West Coast snow

Denver is no stranger to big temperature swings. The city’s geographical location provides the perfect setup. It neighbors the wide-open central plains where bursts of polar air can easily come rushing south from Canada in the right weather pattern.

Its elevation and position relative to the Rocky Mountains leaves it at the mercy of the wind direction, which can have a huge impact on temperatures. An easterly “upsloping” wind significantly chills the air as it rises. A westerly “downsloping” wind forces the air to warm as it heads toward the metro.

RELATED: Lake Erie’s shadow

The weirdest thing about this big weather swing was the time of year that it came. Denver’s most dizzying temperature dives come in mid to late winter when harsh polar air has the greatest potential to head south.

It’s unusual to see the jet stream weaken and buckle so much in September. A phenomenon that should be watched carefully as we get closer to the winter season. 

RELATED: What is the polar vortex?

Last week’s round of cold brought close to a foot of snow to the higher mountain elevations with about 1” around the Denver metro region. September snow isn’t uncommon for Denver in the long-term but this is the first measurable September snow in almost 20 years.

New episodes of Heather’s Weather Whys are posted to the WGRZ YouTube channel every Wednesday evening. You can also watch on Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. on Channel 2 News.

If you have a weather question for Heather to answer, send it to her at heather.waldman@wgrz.com or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.