New Utah climate research shows warming trend

Published July 13, 2012 10:05 am
Drought • Comprehensive data set on temperatures, precipitation show snow is melting earlier.
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Drought has never been a stranger in Utah.

But newly published research from the Utah Climate Center shows how hot, dry conditions have arisen more often since the 1950s.

The Journal of Climate study, based on perhaps the most comprehensive data set ever assembled on temperatures and precipitation throughout Utah, shows snow is not sticking around as long into the spring as daytime and nighttime temperatures trend upwards.

Rob Gillies, director of the center and professor in Utah State University's department of plants, soils and climate, noted that while weather can vary from year to year — he pointed to last year's cold, wet conditions — climate focuses on longer-term trends. And, "the trend is warming," he said.

With warmer temperatures melting snow earlier in the spring and a low snowpack to begin with, moisture evaporated and the landscape dried out earlier this spring and "that results in drought," Gillies said.

In June, temperatures were 2 to 8 degrees higher than normal.

And drought conditions that range from "abnormally dry" to "severe" and "exceptional" now pervade the state, he said.

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