Where’s the Snow? “Ominous” Signs Point to Dry Winter

We hope that by the time you read this, a monster snowstorm will have swept the state, coating our mountains (and skis slopes) in a thick blanket of white and renewing hope for a reservoir-replenishing snowpack.

As of this writing, however, the forecast is full of “ominous signs” for the rest of this water year, according to Brian McInerney, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

The water year began on October 1, with October temperatures averaging 5.3 degrees higher than normal and a high-pressure ridge already parked above the state. This weather pattern has been responsible for the drought now entering its sixth year, and signs show that the conditions that have been causing the drought look set to continue.

According to a November 3 article in the Salt Lake Tribune, storage in Utah reservoirs averages 46 percent. There has been some precipitation so far in the water year, but the warmer-than-normal temperatures mean that it either fell as rain, or as quickly-melted snow. While that’s good for stream flows and soil moisture levels, it does nothing to fill up the reservoirs.

What’s ahead for the state? Long-term forecasts from the National Weather Service show higher-than-average temperatures persisting through January, which would be very bad for the state’s water supply, not to mention the ski and tourism industries.

McInerney points out that long-range forecasts are unreliable, and the high-pressure pattern could still change. If the snowpack begins building by December, there is still a chance for a healthy water year.