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Department of Atmospheric Science

Tues., Mar. 28, 3:10 pm, EN6085

A Statistical Approach to Forecasting High Winds in Southeast Wyoming

Drs. Chris Hammer and Zach Finch

National Weather Service, Cheyenne


High winds are one of the highest impact weather hazards in southeast Wyoming.  Two major Interstates (25 and 80) pass through mountain gaps which result in frequent cross winds in excess of 60 MPH during the months of October through March.  In addition, the city of Cheyenne, Wyoming, with an average annual wind speed around 13 MPH, making it one of the windiest places in the United States for populations over 50,000 (NCDC).  Strong winds commonly result in vehicle blow overs near Arlington (Interstate 80 between Laramie and Rawlins), Bordeaux (Interstate 25 between Chugwater and Wheatland), and Interstate 25 between Cheyenne and the Colorado state line.  This creates a challenge to forecasters at the National Weather Service in Cheyenne to adequately warn drivers of trucks and other light or high profile vehicles of the hazards associated with strong winds.  Forecasters have a good understanding of the weather patterns leading to this.  However, mountain waves and subtle, fast-moving short wave troughs combined with certain meteorological conditions can sometimes make the potential for hazardous, non-convective winds difficult to detect with notable lead time.  A combined analysis of decades of wind data from Cheyenne, Arlington, and Bordeaux revealed the importance of numerous meteorological parameters favoring both gap winds, and downslope winds in Cheyenne.  This helped confirm previous research into winds at Arlington, and led to the development of a high wind prediction model for Cheyenne and Bordeaux to assist forecasters in identifying the potential for strong winds. 

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