Could a La Nina winter help drought in Utah?

Sep 28, 2021, 4:22 PM | Updated: 4:48 pm
La Nina winter...
Source: NOAA.gov

SALT LAKE CITY — Weather experts are weighing in on how an average, or above-average, winter could impact the ongoing drought in Utah

Specifically, they’re looking at how a La Nina winter might look in Utah this year. 

What is La Nina?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), La Nina is categorized as a northwest jet stream caused by colder water in the Pacific Ocean. This leads to wetter conditions in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, and drier conditions further south. 

“It usually means wetter than usual conditions in the Pacific Northwest … and kind of dives into the Intermountain West,” said KSL Meteorologist Grant Weyman. 

When that dive does happen, Weyman said Utah often gets above-average snowfall through the winter but that isn’t always the case. 

‘They’ve done studies and half La Nina years mean extra wet for Utah, and half the time they’re normal or dry. There’s really no rhyme or reason,” he said. 

The La Nina science is a little spotty 

NOAA and the KSL Weather Center agree: forecasts out further than 10 days are not always the most reliable. 

“There’s no accurate way to predict how good a winter we’re going to have,” said Weyman. 

He said long-term forecasts are experimental and he usually takes them with a grain of salt. 

What about the drought? 

Weyman and fellow KSL meteorologist Kevin Eubank are optimistic that an average winter is around the corner for Utah. 

If the weather follows previous La Nina patterns, we could get enough water to fill our reservoirs for next year. 

“If we get a decent snow year, I think we’ll be in much better shape with our water next summer,” Weyman said.

Unfortunately, Eubank said, the ongoing drought will likely persist. It took several years for the drought to get this bad and will likely take as long to end. 

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Could a La Nina winter help drought in Utah?