Weather Forecasts in the Four Corners Are Limited by Inadequate Radar

Radar black hole

Southwest Colorado and other parts of the Four Corners region are in one of the largest weather forecast gaps in the United States, with regional radar installations being too far removed to accurately predict major events like winter storms, The Durango Herald and Cortez Journal reported.

Weather conditions and forecasts for the region rely on radar in Grand Junction, Flagstaff and Albuquerque.

None of the stations detect low-altitude, dangerous conditions in an area that reaches from Alamosa west to the Grand Canyon, and from Gallup north to Moab, said Jim Pringle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, according to the report by Journal writer Jim Mimiaga.

One result is that in recent years damaging storms have hit the region with no or inadequate warning.

The problem also impacts the adequate forecasting of water supplies, the story said.

“Our (water) compact operations are based on stream flow forecasts,” said Craig Cotten, a Division 3 engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources. “Inaccurate forecasts can cause unnecessary curtailment of ditches, over or under delivery of compact obligations and disruption of priority system.”

Blind spots are caused in part by the curvature of the Earth, Mimiaga explained. When straight-line radar beams reach Southwest Colorado from the closest station in Grand Junction, they’re too high to do much good.

The radar beams are often too high to detect mountain-hugging events like major winter storms.

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