Sunday , January 07, 2018 - 5:00 AM1 comment
Utah rang in the new year with alarmingly sparse snow cover.
The state’s snow year, which started in October, is looking to be one of the worst on record, according to the Utah Snow Survey.
“Snowpacks in southern Utah are worse than in 1977 and for those old enough to remember, that was the year with no snow,” said the survey supervisor, Randy Julander, in an email. “So, it’s bad, really bad.”
A weak La Niña pattern is to blame for the lousy season, which has hit Southern Utah particularly hard — the region’s snowpack is between 5 percent and 35 percent of normal. Things look a little better up north, where snowpacks range from 50 to 80 percent normal.
“Like that is something to write home about,” Julander said.
Looking at past snowpack patterns, Julander notes a “train wreck” is likely on its way. Snowpacks less than 75 percent average by Jan. 1 have only a one in five chance of getting back to normal by April.
“Every day that goes by without a storm puts us deeper in the hole with less probability of recovery,” Julander said.
The glimmer in Utah’s water outlook lies in its reservoirs, which benefited from last year’s big snow storms. Statewide, water storage is at 72 percent of capacity compared to 49 percent last year.
Zooming into Northern Utah watersheds, the Bear River basin has the best snowpack in the state, with a snow water equivalent at 85 percent of normal. The Weber-Ogden basin sits at 63 percent of normal.
“It’s not a real rosy picture,” said Mark Anderson, assistant general manager of Weber Basin Water Conservancy District. “It just goes to the point, we are in a variable climate, we’re still in a desert. Some years we get a lot of snowpack; some years we don’t.”
Last year, the Bear River basin was at 125 percent of normal and the Weber-Ogden basin was at 123 percent.
“Just because we had a good year last year doesn’t mean we shouldn’t conserve what we have,” Anderson said.
Read the entire Utah Water Supply Outlook Report online.
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