Joey's Smore Flyer

EDIT 2000

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Why are there more clouds in the mountains?


When I lived in Colorado in 2006, I noticed that there were crazy clouds over the mountains and storms were frequent. The weather in Colorado was unpredictable, and constantly changing. One minute it would be pouring and the next thing I know it would be sunny as if nothing happened. Also, the temperature variation throughout the day was extreme: even in the summer, the temperatures in the morning would hover around 40-50 degrees, and spike all the way up to the 90s in the afternoon. In addition, because of the crazy cloud formations and shapes and the colors of the Rockies, I was able to see the most jaw-dropping sunrises and sunsets during my time in Colorado.

One experience that I will never forget is when I went to Walmart in Colorado Springs. When I left for Walmart from home it was bright and sunny with no signs of rain. However, when I got to Walmart and was shopping inside, the rain started pouring and a thunder struck right above where I was standing and the entire building shook. I've never heard a thunder that loud in my life before.

Another experience that I remember is from when I visited Colorado last month. I went hiking at the Colorado National Monument in Fruita, CO (I took the picture above there) and while I was almost an hour deep into one of the trails, rain clouds appeared out of nowhere and it hailed for about 30-40 minutes. I had to hide under a Juniper tree and wait it out until the clouds passed. The trails were ruined afterwards and so were my shoes as I tried to trek back to my car.

My overall experience in Colorado has always made me wonder why the mountains attract clouds and cause extreme weather. This is not a common occurrence in Georgia and I've always wanted to find answers to this. Hence I decided to explore this question have my wonder resolved.

Source 1

I have searched for answers on Google and have come across a few trustworthy sources that explain this phenomenon. The first one is from Quora and it offered a simple yet accurate explanation. It turns out that mountains actually do not 'attract' clouds but cause them to form. Mountains cause air to move up and since the cold air up there cannot hold water as well as the warm air down low, water particles begin forming and clouds take shape, and in many occasions leading to rain.

Source 2

The second source that I have found offered a more detailed explanation as to why. This source confirmed my observations in Colorado and explained why mountains experience drastic variations in weather and also why there are always clouds hovering over the peaks. One interesting fact that I learned from this source is that large mountains often form their own microclimates! The next time I visit Colorado or any mountains, I will remember to keep that in mind and pack accordingly.