1200-Year Study Suggests that “Wet Years” May Be Over for Now

The Bear River is an important water source for the Wasatch Front’s growing population, so water planners monitor it carefully in an attempt to predict future water supplies. However, a team of researchers have found that the period of modern recordkeeping – from 1943 to the present – also happened to coincide with the second-wettest period in a millennium, and that wet period has now come to a close. In other words, predictions have been based on cyclical conditions that have now changed, and the outlook for the future is considerably dryer.

A team led by R. J. DeRose of the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station, and which included scientists from BYU and Utah State, examined tree rings from Utah junipers to establish wet/dry cycles that may last approximately 20-40 years on average. The study, titled “A millennium-length reconstruction of Bear River stream flow, Utah,” was published in the Elsevier Journal of Hydrology.