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Despite trend of late-summer rain, drought continues in Utah

First Published      Last Updated Sep 10 2015 09:30 pm

Climate » Rainy spring, summer haven’t made up for recent dry winters.

August continued the last half-decade's trend of intense late summer rains, but severe drought conditions linger in the western half of the state.

Statewide, August precipitation averaged 117 percent of normal, mirroring conditions in July and continuing what Randy Julander, state snow survey supervisor, said is a four-year trend of elevated late-summer precipitation.

But the rainy spring and summer weather still hasn't made up for the past several years' dry winter weather. The state's running water year total — which will restart for 2016 in October — currently sits at 84 percent of normal, according to the monthly Climate and Water Report from the National Resources Conservation Service. Statewide reservoir capacity is down to 55 percent, compared to last year's 57 percent at the end of August.



Disappointing winter weather has contributed to the long-running drought in Juab, Tooele and portions of surrounding counties, while the U.S. Drought Monitor has lifted some drought advisories on the eastern side of the state, especially in San Juan County. According to the monitor, which ranks drought conditions on a scale of 0-4, about a quarter of the state continues to experience severe (D2) level drought.

The Salt Lake area generally fared better last month than regions farther west. Precipitation in the surrounding Provo and Jordan river basins totaled 153 percent of normal, bringing the area to a running total of 76 percent of normal. Reservoirs in the basin are sitting at 63 percent of capacity.

The metro area had more precipitation in August than all but the northmost drainage basins, but it wasn't enough to help Salt Lake catch up to the southeastern region in annual accumulation.

After a deluge of rain earlier this summer, the southeastern portion of the state, including the Dirty Devil, Escalante and Southeastern drainage basins, is nearing normal totals for the year, ending the drought for that portion of the state, according to the drought monitor.

This trend is expected to continue into December. Three-month forecasts from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center anticipate above-normal precipitation for southern and eastern Utah, but made no prognostication for the northwest portion of the state.

The Climate Prediction Center attributed its forecast to an increasingly strong El Nino pattern in the Pacific Ocean.

epenrod@sltrib.com

Twitter: @EmaPen

 

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