It's balmy in Utah, but where is winter?
Jason Dyer is one of those glass-half-full guys when it comes to the unusually warm weather Utah has been having.
A spokesman for Snowbasin Resort, a skiing venue for the 2002 Olympic Games, he enthuses about the healthy precipitation in recent weeks. Snowmaking is ready to go, he said.
"We're super-optimistic," Dyer said. "We're just biding our time soon the temperature's gonna drop, and it's going to be amazing."
It seems everyone's hoping that Dyer gets his wish, but no one's betting on it.
Brian McInerney, of the National Weather Service, will reserve judgment. His agency's monthly summary for November shows temperatures averaged 5.5 degrees higher than normal, which is 40 degrees.
Twelve days were 10 degrees or more above normal.
And, although precipitation was slightly above normal for the month, the warm temperatures kept the snow above 8,000 feet. Snow at 6,500 feet is more typical this time of year. If temperatures don't fall soon, the mountains will have trouble doing their vital job as a kind of freezer that stores the population's water for much of the year.
"The key is," said McInerney, "you don't want to go through December like this."
Rob Gillies, director of the Utah Climate Center, also is focusing on watching what happens, rather than trying to make a sweeping prediction about the whole winter.
In a paper published last year, he and his team at Utah State University discovered a shift in northern Utah's climate toward higher temperatures and fewer but more violent storms. The observations were based on 50 years of data from a wide variety of sources.
In addition, there are seasonal and annual cycles, along with global climate patterns that can sway temperatures and precipitation every few years, every decade or so and even on a half-century time scale. It's impossible to know what will dominate through this winter, he said.
"We'll see," Gillies said. "We're heading into a whole new regime right now, especially with temperatures like this."
Much of the nation saw a similar warm trend last month. (And the Farmer's Almanac is predicting more of the same through the winter for the Rockies, although with normal or better precipitation.)
Some Utah duck hunters also have lamented the warmth for slowing hunting. "Snow, but not too much snow, and cold would help," said a Field and Stream blogger hunting at the Great Salt Lake.
Richard Bay, general manager of the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, noted the Jordanelle and Deer Creek Reservoirs are around two-thirds full, and aquifers are doing well for this time of the year. That's because of the good precipitation.
"Whether it's rain or snow," he said, "we can still capture it in our reservoirs."
Dave Terry is another valley resident who's comfortable with the way the weather's been lately.
The Salt Lake City golf program director says the high temperatures have allowed golfers to continue hitting the links.
"We'll smile and take every round of golf that comes our way," Terry said.
He estimated there were around 20 "golfable days" when temperatures were 50 degrees or above last month. (There were 21, according to the weather service.)
But Terry hopes that a change comes soon.
"We obviously need some rain so we have water to draw on for irrigation next year," he concluded. "Once we get into December, that's more important than rounds of golf."
5 • Days cooler than normal
12 • Days that had high temperatures 10 degrees or more above average for the date
20 • Widest gap in degrees of temperature between daily high and average for the date (Nov. 28: 63 degrees, compared to average 47)
72 • High temperature of the month (Nov. 8, compared to average 61 for the date)
21 • Low temperature of the month (Nov. 11 and 12)
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