Shelledy Elementary

Extreme Weather

Colorado Life Zones: Seasons, Plants, & Animals

Step 1: Choose One of the Life Zones or Choices Below

Life Zones Menu Bar
Colorado Life Zones General Information Interactive Elevation & Life Zone Diagram Colorado Maps: Life Zones and More Semidesert Shrublands (West CO) Shortgrass Plains Life Zone (East CO) Foothills Woodlands & Shrublands Montane Forests Life Zone Subalpine Life Zone Alpine Life Zone Riparian Life Zones

Subalpine Life Zone: Seasons, Plants, & Animals

Step 2: Choose a Topic from the Subalpine Life Zone & Scroll Down

Subalpine Life Zone General Information
General Information

Subalpine Life Zone Through the Seasons
Through the Seasons

Subalpine Life Zone Extreme Weather
Extreme Weather

Subalpine Life Zone Awesome Adaptations
Awesome Adaptations

Subalpine Life Zone Plants and Trees
Plants and Trees

Subalpine Life Zone Mammals

Subalpine Life Zone Birds

Subalpine Life Zone Reptiles and Amphibians
Reptiles & Amphibians

Extreme Weather of the High Mountains

Sunny Subalpine and Alpine Morning

The weather in the subalpine and alpine life zones can change very quickly.Weather up here can get really cold, wet, and windy. The weather can change from sunny and calm, like in the picture above, to stormy really fast! First, there are not many places to hide from the wind, snow, and rain. Secondly, the land is steep, rocky, and slick. Most importantly, you have a lot higher chance of getting struck by lightning since you may be the tallest object and you are so close to the clouds.

In the winters so much snow falls there and the mountains are so steep that there are many avalanches. The snow falls in layers and sometimes a layer of snow breaks free causing an avalanche. The falling snow has so much force that it packs down as hard as concrete. Odds are people and animals die of suffocation before they die of freezing when they are trapped in and avalanche. Also during winter, the snow can cause snow blindness. Snow blindness is where the vast amount of bright white snow causes your eyes to tire. Soon it is hard to tell distance and direction. It makes it easy to get lost and/or freeze to death.

Every season of the year you need to be aware of snow storms. Blizzards and white-out storm conditions are very common from fall to spring. Even in the middle of summer it is possible to have a snow storm. In one summer day it can change from warm, sunny, and T-shirt and short weather to winter-like and snowy weather. In addition, some people get altitude sickness in the high mountains, click on altitude sickness and sunburns to learn more.

Also don't underestimate lightning and the effects of the strong cold mountain winds. Lightning is common during the summer. Clouds can build quickly and can store lots of energy. Since the ground is so close, the mountains often get struck by the tremendous amounts of stored energy from the clouds, lightning. I know from experience that getting stuck in a lightning storm high in the mountains can be one of the most scary experiences of your life. BE AWARE of the changes in the clouds! Also the cold mountain winds can steal body heat faster than many people predict. Even worse is if you get wet and it is windy. It doesn't take long for the wind to steal most of your body heat. You may become hypothermic, lost, and/or possibly freeze to death.

Below is a series of pictures that show how fast the weather can change in the high subalpine and alpine mountains on one summer morning. At 9:00 AM, it was so warm and sunny that I was hiking in shorts, a T-shirt, and backpack with extra supplies.By 9:30 AM, I could see clouds building up high in the sky. By 10:30 AM, many of the white fluffy clouds had joined together into larger and darker clouds and the temperature had dropped enough to put on long pants and a jacket. By 11:15 AM, the weather had turned very serious. I had put on an extra sweater, put on my waterproof rain jacket and pants, and started quickly hiking to lower elevations. I had learned from a past experience that water resistant is not the same as waterproof. Soon, lightning was lighting up the sky, and thunder was crackling and rumbling through the air. The ground would shake with each lightning bolt! It had become very windy and started to hail nickel sized ice balls, and then started pouring rain. I had went from shorts and a T-shirt to full winter clothes and rain clothes in a little over 2 hours. Without the extra clothes, I would be wet and the cold mountain wind would be stealing my body heat, making me colder even faster. Soon, I could have possibly been facing hypothermia or freezing to death. It is extremely important if you go in the subalpine and alpine that you are prepared for the fast changing weather!

Pic 1: Nice Sunny Skies & Warm 9:00 AM

Pic 2: The Clouds are Building 9:30 AM

Sunny Skies Clouds are Building Fast
The Clouds Join Together Lightning, Hailing, and Windy

Pic 3: The Clouds Join Together 10:30 AM

Pic 4: Lightning, Hailing, & Windy 11:15 AM

Lightning can be very dangerous in the mountains, especially in the subalpine and alpine.

Lightning in the Mountains Lightning in the Mountains
Lightning in the Mountains Lightning in the Mountains