UTAH'S DROUGHT

New Tool Helps Predict Irrigation, Flash Flood Conditions Weeks Ahead Of Storms

Jul 8, 2021, 6:56 PM | Updated: Jul 9, 2021, 6:31 am

LOGAN, Utah — With this unrelenting heat and drought, water managers in Utah developed a new tool to help them predict irrigation and flash flooding conditions weeks ahead of any storms.

The tool has allowed them to collected soil-moisture data in real-time from more than 200 underground weather sensors across the state.

The sensors transmit data back to the Utah Climate Center at Utah State University in Logan, usually within minutes, giving water managers more time to plan for the weeks ahead.

That means before the rain hits the ground, climatologists like Jon Meyer can get a pretty good idea of how well the soil will take it in.

“Our mapping is brand new,” Meyer said. “And as you can see right now, most of the state is covered in lots of browns and yellows.”

The outlook is not great.

Development on the new system started just weeks ago.

“The situational awareness we get from the soil moisture mapping system is used about every two weeks in our Utah Drought Task Force,” Meyer said.

Climatologists at the Utah Climate Center came up with the idea about six weeks ago.

Meyer said their IT department got it up and running in about four weeks. Combined with atmospheric data these stations gather, they can make predictions up to a month out.

Jon Meyer, Utah State University climatologist. (KSL TV)

“From there we can get some basic estimates for water research managers of how they can plan irrigation over the next month or so,” Meyer explained.

He said they can also predict how well the soil will absorb rain from a coming thunderstorm and use that data to get a better idea of how coming flash floods could turn out in Southern Utah.

Utah really needs a solid break from these hot, dry conditions.

“We had a pretty significant drought about three years ago,” Meyer said. “And to see it get even worse three years later and for an even greater amount of the state is not good news. It’s depressing, to be honest with you.”

Researchers at the Utah Climate Center planned to set up dozens more of these soil monitoring devices around the state.

All of their collected data is available online.

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New Tool Helps Predict Irrigation, Flash Flood Conditions Weeks Ahead Of Storms