Utah starts dry in 2022

A lack of snow has created more setbacks as the state continues to battle a “mega-drought.”

Source: United States Natural Resources Conservation Service

Utah saw little snow in its first few months of the new year, wiping out any gains the storms blew away at the end of 2021.

The Bear, Weber, Provo-Jordan and Tooele Valley basins appear particularly barren, with snowfall accumulations less than 80% of normal according to the latest water supply outlook report from the US Natural Resources Conservation Service. Statewide, the snow-water equivalent is 82% of normal, and February brought just 34% of its usual precipitation. Still, Utah’s precipitation is near average for this time of year at 101%, mostly due to early season storms in October and December.

“We still hold out hope that March will bring much-needed snow,” Jordan Clayton of the NRCS Utah Snow Survey wrote in the report. “As one of the wettest months in Utah, Utah typically receives about 3 inches of mountain precipitation in March, which is about 11 percent of the annual total.”

But the state will need an additional 13 inches above the historical water-year average to pull itself out of years of accumulated shortages, the NRCS reports.

Tank storage in the state is at 53% capacity, down 14% from the same time last year. And the NRCS predicts a dismal runoff season – with some stream flows as low as 20% of normal – unless more winter storms arrive.

In southern Utah, the US Bureau of Reclamation predicts Lake Powell will drop below 3,525 feet in March. This rise will trigger further mitigation efforts to channel more water to the reservoir before the Glen Canyon Dam loses its ability to generate hydroelectricity. The water could plunge up to 2 feet past the sill, though the bureau predicts spring runoff will replenish those losses by May.

“This year, the Colorado River Basin has seen wildly variable conditions with a record month-long snowpack followed by snowless weeks,” said Acting Reclamation Commissioner David Palumbo. “This variable hydrology and a warmer, drier West has had a huge impact on our operations, and we are faced with the urgent need to manage at this time.”

In an interview last month, Wei Zhang, an assistant professor in the Department of Plants, Soils, and Climate at Utah State University, said climate models continue to predict warmer and drier trends. In Occident.

“I’m not convinced this year will end the drought conditions,” Zhang said, “so I think we need to pay more attention to how to conserve water.”

Zhang recently published research in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that identified patterns in Utah’s persistent dry trends. Instead of an increase in high pressure events, which bring warmer temperatures and dry conditions, the state has seen fewer low pressure systems which bring cold weather and snow (while sweeping away the notorious inversions of the Salt Lake Valley).

“We further attribute this to climate change,” Zhang said. “There are fewer and fewer low-pressure systems, and that’s mostly attributed to human activities.”

Read the full NRCS Utah Water Supply Outlook Report below.

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