Viewed from the perspective of the northern plains, say from North Dakota, Minnesota, or the prairie provinces of Canada, a storms which tracks from the southwest is called a "Colorado low" (From the perspective of Denver, such a storm might be called an "Albuquerque low".) The opposite of a Colorado low, a storm tracking from the northwest, is called an "Alberta clipper. A Colorado low sometimes transports warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico into the northern plains and produces ample precipitation. In contrast, an Alberta clipper, being relatively both cold and dry, may not.

During the 1990's North Dakota has had above average precipitation, as evidenced by rising lake levels in Devils lake, which lies in a closed basin. This situation has been characterized by frequent Colorado lows associated with heightened El Niño activity.

Prior to its appearance on the eastern plains of Colorado, the low has usually tracked from southern California across northern Arizona and New Mexico. Arrival of a Colorado low may substantially raise temperatures, often above the freezing point, in southern Canada and the northern plains. Storms associated with Colorado lows produced heavy snows and flooding in Manitoba in 1966 and 1997. The melting of the 1997 storm resulted in a 100-year flood on the Red River of the North.

Related patterns

  • The Panhandle hook which tracks northward from the Texas panhandle
  • The Gulf low which tracks northward from the Gulf of Mexico
  • The Azores High, an area of high pressure normally over the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean.


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