Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rocky Mountain High...Tornado

Credit:  Sheila Gavin
A tornado that touched down on Saturday in Colorado's Rocky Mountains is confirmed by the National Weather Service to be the second highest tornado on record in the United States.   The tornado touched down on the northeast slopes of Mount Evans, a prominent mountain that is located about 60 miles west of Denver and features a high elevation of 14,265 feet.  It's prominence and relative closeness to Denver make it an easy mountain to spot from the Mile High City.

On Saturday, it was also easy for a tornado to touchdown on it.

It touched down at 11,900 feet (or so) according to Bob Glancy of the NWS, which makes it the second highest tornado on record, at least 100 feet "lower" in elevation than the current record holder.  In 2004, a tornado in Rockwell Pass in Sequoia National Park touched down somewhere between 12,000 and 12,500 feet in elevation.

Glancy noted to NBC that tornadoes at this altitude are typically weak and unusual, an element due to a lack of necessary dynamics that are more readily found farther east over the High Plains.  In this case, it was likely a "cold air funnel" at work...which is common when there's a pocket of colder air in the atmosphere helps spin up some weak funnels or tornadoes in showers and other unsettled weather.

The National Weather Service has a couple of other photos of the tornado as well.