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Cold Temperatures and Elevation

Cold Temperatures and Elevation

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Dear Weather Expert,

I have a question about temperatures in Utah. As a frequent traveler all over the state of Utah, I've noticed the temperatures at Bryce Canyon are often much lower than other places in the immediate vicinity. I know that area is at around 7500 ft of elevation, but so are other towns not far away (Escalante, Boulder, Torrey), and their temperatures are typically 10 deg warmer. Is there some physical or meteorological phenomena present at that location that keeps the temperature low?

Michael M. West Valley City


A good weather inquiry indeed. Bryce as many of us know can be a very cold place! It's high up like you are saying that's a big part of why it's so cold there. Another reason is that it's location is very valley like and the colder air gets trapped in there doesn't mix out during the daytime sunshine. The elevation at Bryce goes anywhere from 7500 to 8500 on average. The town of Excalante is down at 5800 feet so it's warmer there and it's not valley like, it's more just hilly so the sunshine can warm it up significantly.

The hills of Boulder, Torrey and Escalante all slope downward toward Lake Powell so the cold can retreat once the sun shines during the day and it's not trapped at night.

Typically, temperature will decrease as elevation increases. Or you can look at as pressure and temperature are directly related, as pressure decreases (going up in the atmosphere) the temperature decreases as well. Unless you have an inversion going on, then the temperature can increase as pressure decreases (higher elevations), hence the name inversion, the temperature profile is inverted.

Answered by KSL Meteorologists Dina Freedman and Dan Pope.

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