Years From Now, Front Range Hail Could Be Scarce
Summertime hail is a common occurrence along Colorado’s Front Range. But a new study suggests it could all but disappear from the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains by the year 2070.
Because precipitation commonly falls as hail above 7,500 feet, researchers wanted to see how warming temperatures would impact the flood risk in the mountains. The study found the hailstones would melt quickly as they fall through a warmer atmosphere, resulting in a lot more rainfall.
Less hail could be good news for car finishes -- but a shift from hail to rain would likely mean more runoff and an increased risk for flash floods. And the results could have implications for the way mountain dams are built in the future, says the study's lead author.
"For instance, if above, say, 8,000 feet, we assumed there wasn’t much of a flood risk because things were falling as hail -- if that’s no longer true in the future, then we’re sort of looking at -does the way we build and maintain dams need to change?” asks Kelly Mahoney, a research scientist with CIRES – the University of Colorado Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.
She says future research will likely look at the potential impact of climate change for Colorado’s eastern plains.