Meteorologist says Utah snow melt continues at ideal pace

May 12, 2023, 6:18 PM | Updated: May 13, 2023, 3:05 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — There is still a lot of snow that needs to melt and runoff in Utah’s mountains above 9,000 feet.  Most of the stations that measure snowpack on the Wasatch Front have now lost more than half their water.

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A professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah, says the melt-off has gone well considering how deep the snowpack was several weeks ago, and how much more snow still needs to melt. 

“We’re getting rid of the low and mid-elevation snowpack, and I think by and large that’s good news,” Jim Steenburgh, a.k.a., “Professor Powder,” said.

Melting snow

Utah’s snow at lower elevations continues to melt at an ideal pace but a meteorologist says there is still a lot of snow in areas about 9,000 feet. (KSL TV)

He pulled up some graphs that show how much water is left in the snowpack, and how that compares with other big snow years like 1983 and 2011.  Parleys Summit, at mid-elevation, has less than 14 inches of snow water equivalent left. 

“Less snow on the ground than we did 2010/11 year, which is this green line that I just put on and the 1983/1984 years,” Steenburgh said. 

That means there’s less water still to come down for potential flooding than there was in those other deep snowpack years.  He estimates there are only 10 days of snowpack left at Parleys Summit.

Looking at snow water equivalent (SWE) statewide, there’s less water in the snowpack now than there was in several other big years. 

“It doesn’t necessarily mean we are out of the woods yet, but we’re not so far out on a limb, as we were a couple of weeks ago.“

Above 9,000 feet it’s a different story.

“That snowpack at upper elevations still hasn’t started to come off yet,” the meteorologist said.

Snow on Utah peaks

Utah’s snow at lower elevations continues to melt at an ideal pace but a meteorologist says there is still a lot of snow in areas about 9,000 feet. (KSL TV)

There’s still deep snow at Snowbird and elsewhere in the high mountains. In 2011, the snowpack at Snowbird peaked in June, then dropped quickly.

“This year, Snowbird hasn’t started to melt big time yet, but they’ve lost, it’s warmed a little bit, and we’re kind of ahead of the curve compared to 10/11,” he said. 

The weather during the next three to four weeks will be critical. 

“The last couple of weeks have actually gone pretty well,” Steenburgh said. “The best we probably could have hoped for given how deep the snowpack was.”

The cooler spring weather, punctuated by several warm-ups, has led to the drawn-out melt-off that meteorologists and hydrologists had hoped for, so far.

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Meteorologist says Utah snow melt continues at ideal pace