Leadville Tornado: Rare Funnel Cloud Forms Over Mount Massive
While Colorado is no stranger to tornadoes, the appearance of a funnel cloud anywhere other than the state's eastern plains is a rare event. That's exactly what happened on Sunday, however, when a funnel cloud appeared to touch down on top of Mt. Massive near Leadville following a storm.
Amateur video captured footage of the funnel cloud, which never touched down and lasted about 20 minutes.
The Pueblo Weather Service's Pueblo Office describes the funnel cloud as a "cold air funnel."
From the weather service:
This appears to have been an impressive case of a cold air funnel. A cold air funnel is a funnel cloud or (rarely) a small, relatively weak tornado that can develop from a small shower or thunderstorm when the air aloft is unusually cold (hence the name). In this case, a cold upper-level low pressure system was located over northwest Colorado, resulting in increasing atmospheric instability. The upper level winds over southwest Colorado were quite strong, while they were much weaker over northwest Colorado. This resulted in a great deal of wind shear and vorticity, which is the tendency for the atmosphere to spin. The resulting combination of atmospheric conditions was a good recipe for funnel clouds. The atmosphere never ceases to amaze!
While Tornadoes in Colorado's high country may be rare, they're not unprecedented. Funnel clouds have been observed at elevations as high as 12,000 feet in the past.