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A climatic analysis of orographic precipitation over the Big Horn Mountains
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  • Description:
    An analysis of orographic precipitation patterns in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming and Montana was made using climatic data from 1980 through 1990. Annual, seasonal and monthly spatial patterns were examined using data from 83 stations in and around the Big Horn Range, at elevations ranging from less than 3,000 feet (914 meters) up to nearly 10,000 feet (3048 meters). The variation of precipitation with elevation during a number of individual storm events was also examined and these orographic factors were compared to the monthly and seasonal averages. Significant differences in factors were found between the averages and those occurring in specific storms. A synoptic climatology of precipitation producing storm types for the Big Horns was developed in order to examine the effect of these various storms on the distribution of precipitation with elevation. A total of 108 storms, ranging in length from 2 to 11 days, were selected for the analysis. The eight storm types and a ninth miscellaneous category which were identified, showed considerable variation in orographic factors and precipitation characteristics. Some storm types were far more effective in generating precipitation at high elevation (high orographic factors) than other types. It is anticipated that such a classification system would form the basis for improved estimates of rainfall and snowfall in other mountain areas.
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