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Years From Now, Front Range Hail Could Be Scarce

University of Colorado, Boulder
Small hail frequently seen at higher elevations along Colorado's Front Range

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.

As host of KUNC's Colorado Edition, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. And because life is best when it's a balance of work and play, I love finding stories that highlight culture, music, the outdoors, and anything that makes Colorado such a great place to live.
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