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Steam from industrial plants near Commerce City bring burst of snow to part of Denver

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DENVER (KDVR) — A rare snowfall event happened in north Denver near Commerce City Wednesday morning. Below is the radar image from 7:17 a.m. on Wednesday that shows the small burst of snow in the city. The snowfall was enough to coat roads in the area for several hours.

It is uncommon for Metro Denver to see a small isolated shower like this where most of the surrounding areas are dry or seeing light snow.

The explanation for this event from the National Weather Service is that the refineries and industrial plants in the area are helping to induce snow showers. This event is sometimes called industrial snow.

You have likely noticed the white steam coming out of industrial plants before. This is a process that is releasing more water vapor into the atmosphere. Water vapor is one of the main ingredients needed for precipitation to develop. When there is more water vapor in the atmosphere, the chance for precipitation goes up.

The water vapor from the plants was enough to help create snow this morning but why isn’t this more common? The simple answer is that the exact right atmospheric conditions have to be in place in order for this to happen.

An industrial snow event most commonly occurs when there is low cloud cover or fog and an inversion in place meaning that cold air is trapped near the surface with warm air above it. These are all ingredients that Denver’s atmosphere had this morning in order for this to happen.

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