#Drought news: S.E. #Utah dryness persists #ColoradoRiver #COriver

West Drought Monitor December 5, 2017.

From The Moab Sun News (Sharon Sullivan);

The Western Regional Climate Center designated all of Grand and San Juan counties, and a portion of Uintah County, as in a “moderate drought,” as of Nov. 21. Prior to the drought listing, the Moab area was categorized as “abnormally dry” for this time of year.

The freakish warm weather has some people worrying, and, if it continues, there will be significant impacts down the road, but keep in mind current temperatures are much the same as they were this time last year, said Randy Julander, snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Last year’s dry spell was interrupted by a mid-December storm that dumped snow in the La Sal Mountains, replenishing the region’s water supply for another year.

Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency (GWSSA) customers who depend on irrigation water are safe for now as the reservoir level at Ken’s Lake is half full, GWSSA Manager Dana Van Horn said…

“There basically isn’t any snowpack at all in the La Sals, except for a few inches on random, very high elevation north faces,” said Eric Trenbeath, an avalanche forecaster for the U.S Forest Service’s Utah Avalanche Center…

Moab’s irrigation storage facility, located at the south end of Spanish Valley in San Juan County, held 1,173 acre-feet of water as of Nov. 30, compared to 861 acre-feet in 2013. Van Horn said she has seen some years with less than 300 acre-feet of stored water…

The region has been abnormally dry since May 2, 2017, said Jim Pringle, a National Weather Service warning coordinator meteorologist in Grand Junction, Colorado. He’s responsible for monitoring weather conditions in southeast Utah, as well as western Colorado.

“Even though reservoirs may be full, there can be other indicators,” that warrant a drought listing, Pringle said. “When we look at Utah, we see a 50 percent probability of above normal temperatures,” for the next three months.

Pringle said that it’s no reason to be overly concerned – yet – that it’s part of the traditional cycle of random weather patterns. Moab has experienced moderate droughts many times over the years…

A long-term winter outlook shows Moab “sandwiched” between above-normal precipitation patterns in northern Utah, and below-normal precipitation in the south – and Moab could go either way, Pringle said.

There’s a 60-40 probability for a long-term forecast for drier and warmer than normal temperatures in the Moab area, meaning that there is a 60 percent chance of the forecast’s being correct, and a 40 percent chance of its being wrong, said Julander, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Salt Lake City. In other words, “anything can happen,” he said…

Trenbeath, along with 40-plus other national forecasters, provides regularly updated snow, mountain weather and avalanche information for winter backcountry users such as skiers, snowmobilers and snowshoers.

He told the Moab Sun News that less snow in the mountains actually presents greater risks of avalanches because of the instability it creates.

“That’s because snow that sits around for a long time under cold, clear skies tends to weaken into sugary ‘faceted snow,’” Trenbeath said. “This makes an unstable base for new snow to land on,” and can cause “very destructive” avalanches.

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