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Utah’s snowpack breaking records this week

By Toria Barnhart - Park Record | Mar 17, 2023

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

Cars drive along E. Mill Road in Vineyard during a snowstorm on Wednesday, March 8, 2023.

The greatest snow on Earth keeps getting better.

Utah’s snowpack broke records this week, surpassing the previous statewide snow water equivalent on Wednesday and Thursday, and snow experts expect the trend to continue throughout the rest of March.

The National Weather Service in Salt Lake City midweek announced the snow water equivalent, or how much water is in the snowpack, beat the previous record of 23.1 inches for March 15. The number was expected to rise throughout the day, setting a new record for the date. Park City Mountain on Thursday reported receiving 12 inches of snow overnight.

The snowpack also surpassed the previous highest snow water equivalent set on March 16. The statewide average was roughly 24 inches Thursday afternoon, according to Utah Snow Survey Supervisor Jordan Clayton. The previous snow water equivalent record was around 23.5 inches. The statewide value is determined using averaged data from 114 sites across Utah.

“We have sites with totals much higher than that, and of course many with less,” he said. “For comparison, our ‘normal’ peak SWE is 14.3 inches. We’re way above that.”

Clayton expected the snowpack to be higher than previous maximums until the end of the month. Then, it could lag behind other notable years, including 1982, 1983, 1984 and 2011, when the peak snowpack was higher due to late-season snow. This winter has surpassed the 1997 and 2005 seasons, which were also distinctive snowpack years.

But for March, Clayton said, these are the new maximums.

It’s still possible for the 2022-2023 season to break the peak snow water equivalent record if more storms occur this spring. The all-time record for any date is 26 inches.

The National Weather Service in Salt Lake City said the next storm, likely connected to an atmospheric river, could arrive as early as Monday.

“Some guidance suggests the potential for another yardstick snow event for the mountains,” the organization tweeted.

Snow experts have determined this winter to be the best in 20 years, with record-breaking conditions guaranteeing the state’s snowpack will be above normal through the peak in April.

And while the winter conditions have helped to improve drought conditions across Utah, water officials have maintained the state isn’t in the clear yet. Around 39% of Utah is considered to be in a severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Last year, close to 97% of the state was in the category.

Several factors, such as temperature and soil moisture, impact spring runoff, which in turn affects reservoir storage. Officials hope for a good melt to help ensure the maximum result.

Clayton said more details would be available when a water supply outlook report is released on April 1.


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