USU Study: population growth causing wild weather patterns

Feb 28, 2023, 6:14 PM | Updated: 6:33 pm

LOGAN, Utah — From extreme drought to heavy snow, some researchers at Utah State University are tying to get to the bottom of Utah’s rollercoaster weather patterns.

A new study shows that it may be all our fault and that it’s not going away anytime soon. The two professors on this study say population growth, and the things we all do are adding to the wild swings in weather. While we should work to fix it, they say we’re also going to need to learn how to live with it.

Most people don’t have these kind of resources to deal with winter.

“We’re loving the snow this year,” Doug Younker said. “This is a big boy toy, this isn’t work.”

But the data suggests we could be in for a lot more extreme weather.

Wei Zhang is an assistant professor of plants, soils and climate at Utah State University. In the midst of our drought he set out to try and better understand our wild swings in weather.

“…that magnitude of the hydrological cycle is increasing,” Zhang said. “This trend is not going to end, and those types of extreme events – it’s not going to end.”

While we are seeing a very wet cycle now, that very well could last several years he says we will see extreme drought again. After poring over decades of data, he says the cause is us.

“Including everyday users of cars or use the heating system, and also another contribution is from factories,” Zhang said.

While we all need to do our part Zhang says it’s bigger than that because what’s happening overseas, impacts us here.

“We need international collaborations to cut the carbon emissions from the atmosphere and that’s very challenging,” Zhang said.

In the meantime, we’ll have to better prepare for the major droughts and more resources for the plentiful times.

“What we could do is better ourselves by building better infrastructure,” Zhang said. 

 Zhang says the next piece of this study will be to look into why Utah is stuch a hotspot for these kind of extremes, and whether higher global temperatures may be pulling more water into the atmosphere for building storms.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories


Receding Salt Lake...
Kyle Dunphey, Deseret News

Great Salt Lake: Cox urges scientists to ease up on ‘doom and gloom’ messaging

Cox urged the room full of scientists and activists to scale back on what he called the “doom and gloom,” celebrate incremental improvements, and be careful with messaging around the Great Salt Lake.
20 hours ago
Follow @jellis9Like us on Facebook...
Josh Ellis

Brine shrimp becomes Utah’s official state crustacean after Gov. Cox signs bill

The brine shrimp, a tiny crustacean that has lived in the Great Salt Lake area for at least 600,000 years, is now the official state crustacean of landlocked Utah.
20 hours ago
Utah snowpack...
 Carter Williams

‘It just keeps coming’: Warnings issued in Utah with wintry week ahead

Monday is officially the first day of spring, but it might not feel like that in parts of Utah.
2 days ago
Courtney Rundell installing sump...
Mike Anderson

Plumbers busy with sump pump calls in northern Utah

As the weather starts to warm up, a growing number of people are preparing for the spring runoff.
4 days ago
Tremonton flooding...
Mike Anderson

Flooding reminds Box Elder residents of 2017 troubles

Homeowners in Box Elder County said they're seeing some harsh reminders of the flooding in 2017 as they watched similar scenes unfold Wednesday night.
5 days ago
(Chopper 5)...
Tamara Vaifanua

Great Salt Lake symposium evaluates future, impacts of shrinking lake

Talks were underway Thursday on the University of Utah campus about the future of the Great Salt Lake, as part of the annual Stegner Center’s symposium.
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Close up of an offset printing machine during production...
Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.
vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
USU Study: population growth causing wild weather patterns