Indicators point to a wet winter for Utah, but probably not like last year

Oct 12, 2023, 6:57 PM

red color leaves clouds...

October cold, clouds, rain and even snow in 2023 have some remembering the Utah snows of last winter. (Mike Anderson, KSL TV)

(Mike Anderson, KSL TV)

LOGAN — If you feel like this cold, wet Utah weather serves as a reminder that last winter wasn’t all that long ago, you aren’t alone.

“I feel like the snow just barely melted,” Holly Mitchell said. “I know that’s an exaggeration but we had a long winter.”

“With colors like this, how could you be ready for winter?” Allie Mitchell asked. “You kind of want this to last forever a little bit, just because it’s so pretty.”

Climatologists like Jon Meyer say it’s unlikely that we’ll get hit with those extremes again this soon.

“Things were so crazy last year; it’s hard to repeat that again,” Meyer said.

But there are other predictors in place. Meyer said a Super El Nino — as predicted by the National Center of Atmospheric Research — is not likely to hit Utah so hard. A Super El Nino comes when temperatures in the Pacific Ocean rise two degrees Celsius or more above normal.

“Typically the El Nino, La Nina cycle doesn’t have much of a statistical relationship with Utah’s precipitation. Right now, the expectation is that it will be average to slightly above average.”

He said there is another pattern pointing to that likelihood.

“What we do look at as well is the quasi-decadal oscillation, or the QDO, which is a little bit more of an influential cycle,” Meyer said.

That’s a response in the atmosphere that’s now pushing toward a likely five to six year wet cycle. But as it goes with weather, it can always turn out to be something no one expects.

“We try to look at the last 100 years of conditions to give us some measure of predictability, but over the course of 100 years, there are years that match and years that don’t match.”

KSL TV meteorologist Kristen VanDyke said the last time we had a Super El Nino was in 1997 – 1998, where in that February, the Salt Lake International Airport picked up 32 inches of snow.

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Indicators point to a wet winter for Utah, but probably not like last year