UTAH'S DROUGHT

BYU Professor: Tree Rings Reveal We May Be In A Megadrought 

Jun 16, 2021, 6:52 PM | Updated: Jun 17, 2021, 10:06 am

PROVO, Utah — The ongoing heatwave has set record temperatures all across Utah and now a professor at BYU, who studies drought, said he was not surprised by what Utah has seen over the last two decades.

Last summer and into the fall, Utah temperatures broke a lot of heat records. This spring, the trend continued, and that caught the attention of Brigham Young University professor Matt Bekker.

“We may very well break another record today. At the beginning of this week, I expected to see at least three or four broken records,” Bekker said Wednesday.

Last fall on the Wasatch Front the heat set a record for the latest 100° temperature. This spring, the earliest 100° temperature.

“We kept breaking maximum temperature records over and over again,” Bekker said.

All of those broken records got Bekker thinking about temperature trends related to drought. He studied drought through tree rings because they provide a climate record that goes back further than recorded history.

“The tree rings can take us back hundreds of thousands of years to give us a picture of how water resources have varied over much longer periods of time,” Bekker said.

As he looked closer at the data a trend emerged.

“We weren’t breaking records from the 1930s, or the 1950s, we were breaking records from five years ago, and 15 years ago,” he said.

It suggested to him that Utah may be in a long-term drought, that is getting worse.

“Most of the last 20 years have been dry,” the professor said. “We’ve had a couple of wet years here and there that have helped fill our reservoirs.”

At times, the drought appeared to subside.

Brigham Young University Professor Matt Bekker said tree rings indicate Utah is in a megadrought. (KSL TV)

“But, over these 20 years the whole thing is basically a drought,” he said.

It’s potentially, a megadrought, as a number of scientists have suggested this spring. What is a megadrought?

“Usually, it’s a couple of decades: long duration, but also very high severity,” said Bekker. “These megadroughts are defined in that way and basically we’re in one right now over this 20-year period.”

That doesn’t mean it was never wet, but our trend is exceptionally dry.

Bekker believes we all need greater urgency with conservation, abiding by the twice-a-week watering guideline.

Will we run out of water someday? “It’s going to be a long way off before we don’t have water in the sink,” he said.

We should consider what we need, and what we want with our water. A green lawn is a want. Water for cooking, drinking, and firefighting are needs.

“If we think about our wants right now, and cut back on those things that we want, like perfectly green grass in July, then maybe we will have enough for the other things that we really need,” Bekker said.

Utah also entered that period between June and August in which we typically get very little precipitation.

KSL 5 TV Live

Utah's Drought

Hybrid Bermudagrass was formerly banned until Monday, when the Department of Agriculture gave it th...

Darby Sparks

Utahns can now install a grass that will survive 6 weeks without water

Hybrid Bermudagrass was formerly banned until Monday, when the Department of Agriculture gave it the stamp of approval after a BYU professor proved it to not be an invasive species. The grass could become a monumental help in water conservation efforts as it stays green for up to 6 weeks with no watering, unlike the commonly used Kentucky Bluegrass.

6 days ago

Marshland...

Megan Banta, The Salt Lake Tribune

Wildlife are losing habitat at the Great Salt Lake. A nonprofit is working to build some back.

The Nature Conservancy nonprofit has built more than 100 acres of new wetlands in the last few years and has plans for other projects, including a 200-acre project near Syracuse.

17 days ago

Great Salt Lake with mountains behind and the stretch of where people live in between...

Heather Peterson, KSL NewRadio

Utah is now completely out of drought status

According to KSL Meteorologist Matt Johnson, Utah is completely out of a drought status for now but much of the state is abnormally dry.

18 days ago

A Millcreek family is speaking out after an illegal burn nearly destroyed their house. (Unified Fir...

Dan Rascon

Millcreek family nearly loses home to careless fireworks, has a message

A Millcreek family who nearly lost their home due to a blaze started by fireworks has a message for others.

21 days ago

Journalists and water experts raft down the Moab Daily section of the Colorado River with Holiday R...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

The Colorado River is vital in Utah. Here’s why it’s going to get even more publicity

The Colorado River plays an important role in Utah and across the West. KSL TV is participating in a new collaborative to report on the issues tied to its future.

3 months ago

The Dry Wash area where the Washington County Water Conservancy is planning to build a new reservoi...

Alex Cabrero

Ivins residents are concerned about location of planned water reservoir

Some residents in the Ivins area are worried that new water reservoir would ruin an outdoor space everyone enjoys.

3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

young male technician is repairing a printer at office...

Les Olson

Unraveling the dilemma between leasing and buying office technology

Carefully weigh these pros and cons to make an informed decision that best suits your business growth and day-to-day operation. 

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse....

Lighting Design

A room-by-room lighting guide for your home

Bookmark this room-by-room lighting guide whenever you decide to upgrade your lighting or style a new home.

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

BYU Professor: Tree Rings Reveal We May Be In A Megadrought