Warmer, likely drier days ahead for Utah this spring, forecasters predict

SALT LAKE CITY – After a winter storm that swept through northern and central Utah over the weekend, temperatures across the state will warm up over the next few days, making it feel a bit like spring.

And that’s it – at least in a meteorological sense. While spring technically only begins in the early morning hours of March 20 with the vernal equinox, meteorological spring began on Monday.

The National Weather Service tweeted on Sunday that the forecast calls for temperatures in most states that hit their 40s and 50s by Tuesday. The forecast high for St. George was 68 degrees on Tuesday. The current forecast by the KSL Weather Center predicts that most of the Wasatch Front will even reach 60 by the end of the working week, with St. George – with a storm midweek – reaching the 70s.

Why Utah’s spring can be warmer and drier than average

If long-term meteorological projections hold up, this week is a harbinger of what is to come this season. This is because the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center calls for a higher likelihood of a warmer, drier spring season than the Utah average.

Put more simply, assumes that this year’s spring could be more similar to last year than the average.

The Climate Prediction Center creates longer range forecasts based on typical trends from oceanic patterns. Your outlook doesn’t mean Utah will have a warmer, drier spring. The forecast is a forecast of the probability based on the trends observed. Nor does it mean that there will be colder or wetter days in between. More accurate forecasts can only be made about a week in advance.

“Basically, they take into account some long-term climate models as well as the current El Niño-Southern Oscillation patterns on which they are essentially based (predictions),” said Mike Seaman, a meteorologist for the National Bureau of the Meteorological Service in Salt Lake City.

For the winter, a La Niña pattern appeared in the ocean; However, a 60% chance of “ENSO-Neutral” was forecast by April, which means neither La Niña nor El Niño patterns. It is expected to last until the beginning of summer.

Seaman explained that the pattern has less of an impact on the weather in Utah and North America in late spring and summer.

“As you get in later in the spring, that jet stream continues northward, so the jet is essentially moving away from that region and the warmer, hotter (and) drier air working north,” he added.

These maps, created by the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, show the likelihood of above or below average temperatures and rainfall in the United States for March, April, and May 2021. The temperature map is on the left and the rainfall map on the right.These maps, created by the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, show the likelihood of above or below average temperatures and rainfall in the United States for March, April, and May 2021. The temperature map is on the left and the rainfall map on the right. (Photo: National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center)

The model for March, April, and May – the spring meteorological months – assumes that Utah locations have a 33% to 60% probability of a warmer spring season than average. One map shows that northwest Utah is less likely to have temperatures warmer than average, while southeast Utah is most likely to be above average.

The Wasatch Front areas reported a 40% chance of a spring with above-average temperatures in central and southwest Utah.

It also requires a 33% to 50% probability that total rainfall will be below normal for most of the state. Areas within the Wasatch Front and central Utah were listed at 33%, most of southern Utah at 40%, and a small part of southeastern Utah at 50% probability. A splinter in northwest Utah has been classified as “equal opportunity” – meaning it is neither wetter nor drier.

What a warmer and drier spring for Utah

So what is the average? The National Weather Service has two main stations in Utah – one in Salt Lake City and one in Cedar City –

which provide a detailed measure of the state’s climate. The current climate norms are determined by the average between 1981 and 2010.

Spring is usually the wettest time of year for the Salt Lake City station. The months of March, April, and May resulted in an average rainfall of 5.73 inches, which is just over a third of the city’s normal rainfall for a calendar year. The average temperature during this time is 51.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, Cedar City typically receives about 3.18 inches of rainfall in the spring based on the same 30-year sampling span. The weather service does not list a normal per season temperature for Cedar City, but the average temperatures are 42.7 degrees in March, 50.1 degrees in April, and 60.1 degrees in May.

A warmer and drier pattern developed across the Wasatch Front region over the past year, resulting in Salt Lake City having its third driest and fourth warmest spring. Only the spring of 1934 produced a spring as warm and dry as spring 2020, according to climate data. Notably, 1934 is Utah’s warmest year in existence, recently replaced by 2020 as the driest year in the state .

Similar to the Salt Lake City station, Cedar City is also in a phase of warm and dry conditions that dates back to last spring. The city’s climate data shows that March 2020 was the last month Cedar City Station received rainfall at or above average. Above average temperatures were also reported for 10 of the 11 months during this period.

The recent snowstorms in Utah haven’t really helped the rainfall gaps caused by a dry fall either. The water year 2021 began on October 1 and both locations have below-average rainfall five months after the start of the water year.

As of Monday, the Salt Lake City station was 2.97 inches below normal at that time in the water year, while Cedar City was 3.82 inches below normal. According to the US Drought Monitor, 90% of the state is still in “extreme” drought.

The higher probability of warm and dry conditions would widen these deficits further in the further course of the water year.

The rest of the country

Utah certainly isn’t alone in the west when it comes to drought conditions. The spring projection model also offers little optimism for the region. The highest probability of below average rainfall is a county that covers most of Arizona and New Mexico, as well as parts of Utah, Colorado, and Texas.

Most of California, Nevada, and Colorado are below the 33% to 50% probability of below average rainfall probabilities this spring. The southeastern United States is also more likely to experience below-average rainfall.

The Pacific Northwest is the outlier of the West. Most of Washington, along with parts of Idaho and Oregon, have higher chances of above-average rainfall this spring. The Great Lakes and Northern New England regions are the other regions in the US that are more likely to have above-average rainfall.

Most of the United States has a 33% or more chance of above average temperatures. This is led by a section between New Mexico and Texas that is 70% listed. The Pacific Northwest and Southern Alaska were the only locations at a higher risk of sub-par temperatures this spring.



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