Lake-effect drought? New study shows a shrinking Great Salt Lake may exacerbate Utah’s drought conditions

Jul 10, 2024, 2:00 PM

Shrinking Great Salt Lake...

The shrinking water level shown along Great Salt Lake near Antelope Island, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/AP )

(Rick Bowmer/AP )

This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake.

SALT LAKE CITY — A new study by scientists at Utah State University shows that a shrinking Great Salt Lake may exacerbate drought conditions along the entire Wasatch Front. 

“As the Great Salt Lake water body is shrinking, that local precipitation caused by a storm event is going to decrease,” Dr. Wei Zhang, an associate professor of climate science at USU and one of the study’s authors, told FOX 13 News on Monday.

Using a series of meteorological models as a case study, USU researchers found that, in essence, the shrinking Great Salt Lake can create its own vicious cycle of drought.

“So this is going to trigger a negative feedback,” Dr. Zhang explained. “As the water body decreases, that precipitation decreases in the Great Salt Lake Basin. That shrinks the water body. Then the precipitation decreases.”

The study, published recently in the Journal of Hydrometeorology, utilized forecast models that found reductions in precipitation as the lake continued to decrease.

“In general, if the lake goes 100% to 0%, in other words it completely dries up, there will be a 50% reduction in convective precipitation primarily along the Wasatch Front but southeast of Great Salt Lake. In other words, Salt Lake City,” said Dr. Robert Gillies, the head of the Utah Climate Center at USU and the state climatologist.

The Great Salt Lake is famous for its ability to amplify storms. “Lake-effect snow” can pump out more snow in the mountains and boost Utah’s lucrative ski industry (95% of Utah’s drinking water supply also comes from snowpack). But the USU study is another dire warning of what can happen when the lake shrinks.

Continue reading at gslnews.org.

Related reading: New initiative seeks to solve Great Salt Lake’s woes

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Utah Drought

East/west traffic on 4700 South at Bangerter Highway is going to shut down for a year due to constr...

Adam Small

How Utah construction workers are battling triple digit heat

Construction crews are having to deal with intense heat in Utah state this summer by taking breaks and communicating with one another.

7 days ago

Colorado River Basin...

Adam Small

Utah, other Colorado River Basin states want to ensure conserved water gets to Lake Powell

Water managers from Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico recently adopted a resolution to begin work to create a program that tracks conserved water.

10 days ago

Great Salt Lake...

Adam Small

Great Salt Lake and Lake Powell reach multi-year highs, but one is already losing water

Great Salt Lake and Lake Powell have seen increased their water levels however, Great Salt Lake has started to recede.

22 days ago

Parts of Utah have been given a heat advisory on Sunday. A view of the state Capitol and the Salt L...

Kennedy Camarena

Parts of Utah under excessive heat warning

Utah has been given two different kinds of heat advisories for parts of the state by the National Weather Service on Sunday.

26 days ago

The KSL Greenhouse show talked about plants that grow well in Utah's heat this weakened....

Taun Beddes, KSL Greenhouse show

KSL Greenhouse: Plants that bloom in Utah’s heat

Most people shop for their Utah garden flowers in the spring, which might not bloom well in summer. So, what flowers bloom in the summer?

27 days ago

The Glen Canyon Dam holds back the waters of Lake Powell in Page, Arizona, on July 18, 2022....

Adam Small

Lake Powell missing 40,000 acre feet of water after accidental release, officials say

Lake Powell is the nation's second-largest reservoir, and it's currently missing up to 40,000-acre feet of water due to a water release.

1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

A young woman smiles while reading the menu at a lakeside restaurant, enjoying the panoramic view o...

Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau

The best restaurants to try in Bear Lake

Save this guide to the best restaurants in Bear Lake when you need to find a place to dine during your next visit.

Female leg stepping on weigh scales. Healthy lifestyle, food and sport concept....

Health Utah

Sustainable weight loss: the science-backed way to achieve it

Learn more about Debbie's weight loss journey with Health Utah, who have a unique weight loss philosophy for success.

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...


Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

Lake-effect drought? New study shows a shrinking Great Salt Lake may exacerbate Utah’s drought conditions