Climatologists: Utah gradually getting less snow, more rain

Feb 19, 2018, 7:33 PM | Updated: 9:04 pm
Kid enjoy sledding hill in Logan...
Kid enjoy sledding hill in Logan

LOGAN – If the last 30 to 40 years are any indication, Utah’s challenges with the water supply for the spring are likely to continue in coming years. In addition, our very snowy season a year ago may prove to be more of a rarity, according to climatologists at the Utah Climate Center, located on the Utah State University campus.

“[It was a] really unusual amount of snowfall that we got,” Climatologist John Meyer said. “When you really dig underneath that a little bit, the pattern itself didn’t really bring a greater frequency of storms, but the storms we did receive last year were really extreme.”

Last year’s larger storms were brought in by what are called atmospheric rivers, or more commonly, pineapple express events, Meyer explained.

Climatologist John Meyer says Utah on gradual trend toward less mountain snowpack

“These events are really a high-moisture-laden air that makes it’s way from the Central Pacific in really narrow bands,” he said. “It’s a river of really humid air.”

In contrast, unusual circumstances are bringing a very different winter this year.

“The jet stream has been shifted farther to the north,” Meyer explained. “Our storm track has been pushed away, and out of Utah’s influence.”

It’s all the more reason to enjoy the snow while we have it. Monday, at Utah State University’s Old Main Hill, crowds of people were taking advantage of the snowy day by sledding.

“It’s awesome to finally get a snowstorm,” Madi Evans said, a student from Washington state. “It’s a mild winter. It’s been boring.”

Friends Justin Cook (left), Madi Evans (center) and Madison Perkins (right) enjoy President’s Day snowfall

Looking at the larger picture, however, Meyer said climatologists have noticed a more concerning pattern over the last several decades, which seems indicative of climate change.

“We’re seeing snow levels ascending up the mountains,” he explained. “Where we’re getting snow packs is decreasing, so we’re getting less and less snow in the valleys and lower elevations.”

In addition, Meyer said the cold seasons are generally shorter, consisting of more rain and less snow. While our current winter, so far, hasn’t been spectacular, he’s still holding out hope for the coming weeks.

“We’re not out of our, sort of our negative story for the season,” he said. “But we’ve certainly not had a good season so far.”


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Climatologists: Utah gradually getting less snow, more rain