Record-setting snow improves Utah drought conditions

Mar 21, 2023, 5:05 PM | Updated: 7:14 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — As spring begins on the calendar, Utah’s snowpack continues to grow in record territory.

The amount of water in the snow is already ahead of the all-time maximum and likely to break the record.  Storms are also making a sizable dent in the drought.

Statewide, the snowpack is already deeper than it’s ever been at this point in the season since the state started measuring snowpack four decades ago.  If storms continue, this year’s snowpack could break the record soon.

“We are in an exciting time for the state of Utah. We’re setting new maximums for the amount of snow water equivalent that we’re seeing statewide,” said Jordan Clayton, snow survey supervisor for Utah.

So far, Utah already has more snow water equivalent than any previous year.  The snow water equivalent exceeded the previous maximum several days ago.  To break the record, the snowpack needs to be above the maximum when it peaks, typically in the first week of April. 

“We are breaking records for this date,” Clayton said. “But, for the annual snowpack, we haven’t necessarily broken those records yet. But I’m anticipating that there’s a chance that we might, based on the amount of water that we’re receiving as a state this week.”

The snowpack is among the best years ever: 1982, 1983, and 1984. 

“We are pushing up against those record years, 2011 we’ve already beaten, and 2011 was a really monster year,” the hydrologist said. 

What kind of dent does this make in the drought?

Clayton said runoff will likely fill Utah’s small and medium-sized reservoirs, and most basins will have above-average surface water supplies this summer.

The state is still recovering from a cumulative precipitation deficit, and it would take another winter like this one to wipe that out.  On the drought monitor, Utah is no longer in exceptional drought, and only 1% of the state is still in extreme drought. 

“We’re not out of the drought. But we’re not seeing that phenomenally terrible drought condition that we had a couple of years ago across the state,” Clayton said. 

Peak snowpack still depends on the weather.  Clayton said the peak may occur in mid-April rather than early April due to the cool temperatures and additional snowfall.

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Record-setting snow improves Utah drought conditions