Environment

All of Utah officially out of ‘extreme’ drought conditions

UTAH — The never ending winter has spoiled powder-loving skiers and snowboarders alike all season. There is so much snow that many of the resorts have announced extensions to their winter operations, staying open later than ever before in some cases. While that is a victory for some, the change in the state’s drought conditions is a win for everyone, including nature.

Since November 2022, when over 50% of the state was listed as extreme drought, the state’s drought conditions have steadily improved in only a matter of months. As of March 30, nowhere in the state is classified as having an extreme drought. Over 70% of the state is now listed as either moderate drought or abnormally dry.

With snow continuing to fall, the already highest snowpack snow water equivalent since 1952 will only continue to climb. In particular, the high snowpack will pay dividends when looking at reservoir levels throughout the state.

Without even reaching the spring runoff time of year, many are already above 60% full, something that could not be said before this winter. This is a welcomed change from the severity of drought conditions being so bad that many of the state’s fish hatcheries were having trouble operating due to a lack of available water.

There is still a long way to go, and one giant snowfall winter isn’t going to fix everything, but it will put a serious dent in the problem. It’s hard to say what the future might hold in terms of weather for Utah, but it is important to note that the majority of the rest of the planet had one of the warmest winters on record. Utah and the rest of the west were one of the few locations that had below-normal conditions and high precipitation.

Drought conditions across the U.S. at the end of March 2023.
Drought conditions across the U.S. at the end of March 2023.
Courtesy of the National Drought Mitigation Center, USDA, and NOAA.

While there is reason to be positive and even celebrate progress but as the Utah Department of Natural Resources states on its social media, the best environmental outlook is that this is the opportunity to push for changes to make the state more drought resilient regardless of the future weather patterns.

Snowpack surpasses record for highest snow water equivalent since automated recording started in 1981

February was the world’s fourth-warmest on record in 174 years

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