Utah’s snowpack is suffering, and there’s no precipitation in sight

Temperatures will return to normal over the next few days.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City covered in fresh snow on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. Utah could use a lot more of that snow, but there's none in the forecast for the next 10 days.

After a few frigid days, temperatures will return to normal in Utah by next week. So will the haze and smog that the Salt Lake Valley is accustomed to in February.

What isn’t normal, though, is the ongoing lack of precipitation. Salt Lake City saw less than an inch of snow in January, way below the average of 12.4 inches. And most of the state remained fairly dry.

After that super-dry January, the valley has seen very little snow in the first few days of February — Wednesday’s lake-effect storm notwithstanding.

“That basically did little or nothing in terms of adding water” to the snowpack, said Mike Seaman, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Salt Lake City.

And there’s no precipitation in the forecast for the next 10 days, according to the National Weather Service. “We’re in a dry period here,” Seaman said. “We’ve got a strong ridge of high pressure on the West Coast. It’s bringing in this northerly flow out of Canada, which is pretty dry air.”

(USDA) Utah's snowpack has declined since the beginning of the year.

Fortunately for the snowpack, and for Utahns when summer arrives, “we had a very active December, which set us up pretty well,” Seaman said. “But since we didn’t really see much significant precipitation in January … the amount of water in the snowpack has fallen just below average.”

“We’re not in trouble yet,” Seaman added, “but we’ve been losing ground. And at some point, we need to turn it around.”

There’s some indication that the weather pattern could change in the coming weeks and months, however. Historically, late February through April marks the wettest time of the year in Utah, “so that’s kind of the key time for us to add to the water in the snow pack,” Seaman said.

If the pattern changes and it starts snowing and raining in late February, March and April, the snowpack could return to normal — which would be an improvement based on recent years.

“But at this point, it’s not likely that we would end up above average without some kind of really robust wet period,” Seaman said. “We’d have to add what we normally get, plus a bunch, to end up above average.”

In the short term, temperatures are expected to warm up a bit this weekend and return to normal at the beginning of next week. In Salt Lake City, the forecast high is 34 on Friday, with an overnight low of 21. The National Weather Service is predicting highs of 39 then 38 on Saturday and Sunday, along with lows of 21 and 24, respectively. Slightly warmer highs are predicted at the start of next week.

The average highs for the next 10 days in Salt Lake City are 42-44; the average lows are 26-28.

There’s nothing but sunny skies — and zero precipitation — expected in southern Utah. By the middle of next week, temperatures will rise into the low 60s, a few degrees above normal.

The average highs for the next 10 days in St. George are 57-59; the average lows are 30-32.