DENVER - We have had wind gusts well over 100mph earlier this winter, and even last winter. The common link in this is our current winter weather pattern, which is a result of La Nina.
La Nina patterns are great wind producers, especially for Colorado and the plains states. The recent wind resulted in tree damage and wildfires from the Pacific Northwest to Oklahoma, and a peak wind gust of 100mph near Frisco, Colorado Saturday morning.
Ocean temperatures are measured in the Pacific Ocean in regions close to the equator; the times when the temperature of that ocean water is above the average is called El Nino, and times of colder water is La Nina. Currently the ocean is in a very weak La Nina. That ocean water is connected with the atmosphere above it, causing changes to the jet stream pattern.
Having a stronger jet stream during La Nina, and having its path flow over the Rocky Mountains, translates into our windy weather.
Whenever the jet stream is flowing over the mountains it hits the Continental Divide and then is able to flow downhill toward Denver and the plains. That descent, by physical process, heats up. Hence, the area’s recent warm, windy weather.
Overall our pattern doesn’t change for quite some time. There will be a weak cold front to end the week at the surface, but the pattern aloft remains relatively unchanged. There are indications that El Nino will develop by spring, which will bring less wind, and also a more favorable storm track.