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Twice now I have been summitting peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park while getting really early starts to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms.

However in both cases I could still see lighting in the distance several hours before sunrise (think 3:30 to 6:00 am).

What type of weather conditions would lead to lightning strikes before sunrise?

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    Thunderstorms can last a long time. Further south in New Mexico were I live, we often get thunderstorms coming over the foothills into the Rio Grande valley in the early morning hours, midnight to 4am. Occasionally there are early morning storms, mostly in the valley. – Jon Custer Aug 12 at 17:04
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Thunderstorms due to diurnal variations from the previous day that still last as well as incoming cold fronts could be the cause. The former wouldn't be a big threat, as they would abate, the latter would likely thwart any attempt at the peak (however generally you would be aware of it due to forecasting).

  • I did not take into account anything specific to the Rockies, as I know nothing about it, but I assume this should be applicable generally. If there's something more applicable that's Rocky-specific, I am sure someone will bring it up. – imsodin Aug 12 at 17:41

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