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July 2021 goes down as one of the wettest ever, but drought persists

FILE: Cars splash through water at 600 South and State Street after heavy rain hit northern Utah on Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021. While July went down as one of Utah's wettest on record, it won't be enough to erase the drought. Photo: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The monsoon rains which created so much destruction in portions of Utah last month made July 2021 one of the wettest months on record in the state, and yet nearly all of Utah remains in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought. 

12th wettest, 5th hottest July on record

A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information showed July was the 12th wettest on record.  But it was also the 5th hottest since record keeping started in 1895. 

KSL.com reports 1.66 inches of rain fell last month.  That’s the most rainfall for a July since 2011, which saw 1.72 inches.  July of 1936 still remains the wettest on record with 2.5 inches for the month.

The moisture isn’t helping the heat.  The average temperature last month clocked in as the 5th hottest on record with an average of 76-degrees.  

This increases Utah’s average temperature for the year which is at 50.3 degrees.  That’s 3.3 degrees warmer than the average temperature for the 20th century.  And nine of the top 10 hottest Julys occurred since 2001.  

Drought pattern interrupted, but not gone

All the rainfall broke the drought pattern, at least temporarily — but not enough to erase the persistent drought. Wednesday, the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor update showed about half the state in “exceptional” drought, down from 70% a few weeks ago. 99.43% of the state continues to registers in either “extreme” drought. 

“The benefits we saw from the recent rainstorms are wearing off with soils once again drying out,” said Utah Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Brian Steed in a news release. “We have seen a measurable decrease in water use around the state, which helps keep more water in our reservoirs for later use. We appreciate all those who have reduced their use and ask for continued conservation because we don’t know what the winter will bring.”

Meteorologists say rain is good in the short term, but it is snowpack which is the most vital.  Experts say as temperatures continue to increase, much of the rain evaporates before it hits the ground.

Water storage still troubling

The Utah Division of Water Resources and Utah Department of Environmental Quality report water storage benefitted by the recent rainfall, but the numbers still raise concerns. Overall statewide storage held steady over the past week, at 53% of capacity. The agencies report 32 of the state’s largest 42 reservoirs remain below 55% capacity. 

Low water levels across many of those reservoirs continue to impact recreation. The agencies report 11 boat ramps remain closed at 8 state parks. You can check the latest conditions here

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