Bring on the atmospheric river (to ease the Utah drought)

Oct 26, 2021, 8:29 PM | Updated: 10:05 pm
Brighton Ski Resort atmospheric river...
FILE: Utah's Brighton Ski Resort Photo credit: Derek Petersen, KSL TV

SALT LAKE CITY — You can blame the lack of high- or low-pressure systems for all the rain that’s dampened outdoor plans in Utah over the last few days. 

And dumped six inches of rain on Lake Tahoe. And nearly 1 1/4 inches of rain at Salt lake International Airport Tuesday morning. As well as 12 inches of the greatest snow on earth at Alta Ski Resort.

All of that precipitation was contained in an atmospheric river, or stream of water vapor moving across the sky like a river moves across the earth.

This particular storm originated in the tropics of the Pacific and has been moving east unhampered by any pressure systems. With no pressure systems to dissipate its energy, the river held on to its strength.

And soaked the soil in Utah.

The atmospheric river and Utah’s drought

The soaking is a move in the right direction toward putting our mega-drought behind us. 

“Our average monthly total for October is 1.26 inches of precipitation,” said KSL Meteorologist Kevin Eubank, “and we got 1.23 out of this storm.

“So an entire month’s worth of rain out of a single storm,” Eubank said.

The timing of the storm is good. Utah has started a new water year and saturating the soil ahead of winter is what we need, Eubank said. The saturation helps when the spring run-off begins next year. But it’s not all we need.

“If you’re looking at the drought in total, it takes as long to get out of a drought as it likely takes to get in it,” he said. “It’s going to take years for us to truly get out of this drought. We’re going to need lots of precipitation and lots of water to get into our reservoirs and lakes to help replenish them.”

And we’ll need that precipitation to be consistent over the next several years.

At the beginning of September, Utah’s Division of Natural Resources reported that the statewide average for reservoir capacity was at 52% (not including Lake Powell or Flaming Gorge.)

You can keep an eye on daily precipitation levels here.

Related reading:





Today’s Top Stories


Salt lake city hit a record number of 100 degree days and the state is close to the all-time highes...
Waverly Golden

Records set for 100 degree days in SLC and flash flood warnings statewide

Salt lake city hit a record number of 100 degree days and the state is close to the all-time highest number of flood warnings statewide.
2 days ago
NWS predicts 'skier's delight' storm, but little impact on our snowpack, Utah's drought...
Mark Jones

Utah experiences another interesting day of weather

Utah experienced an interesting day of weather Wednesday. While Salt Lake City topped the 100-degree mark for the 23rd time this summer, southern Utah was facing more flash flooding.
3 days ago
Colorado River...
Lindsay Aerts

Utah won’t be forced to cut water use from Colorado River, at least for now

While still being required to conserve water, Utah will not have its water use cut from the Colorado River, at least for now, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.
4 days ago
FILE:  Satellite view of Lake Powell in Utah, in April, 2022. (Gallo Images/Orbital Horizon/Coperni...
Ella Nilsen and Rachel Ramirez, CNN

Colorado River falls into Tier 2 shortage, new cuts coming for Southwest

The federal government is implementing new mandatory water cuts and asking states to devise a plan to save the river basin.
4 days ago
Flooding caused evacuations in the area of the Jacob City Fire burn scar. Photo courtesy of Stockto...
Mark Jackson

Evacuations for areas in the Jacob City Fire burn scar lifted early Sunday

A flash flood warning was issued Friday evening for Salt Lake County, according to the National Weather Service out of Salt Lake City.
8 days ago
Photo courtesy of the Utah Department of Natural Resources...
Chandler Holt

Some Utah areas see slight drop in drought levels

A drought update from the Utah Division of Water Resources offers a glimpse of good news for Utah. Division spokesman Michael Sanchez says you can thank a good monsoonal season for a slight drop in the percentage of the state that is in extreme drought or worse
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Bring on the atmospheric river (to ease the Utah drought)