Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

April 1, 2014
Warm, dry March has snow melting early

March came in and went out like a lion this year — a parched, thirsty lion.

Despite stormy weather at the beginning and end of the month, March was still abnormally dry this year, and warm weather resulted in the loss of some snowpack to premature melting, said Randy Julander, a snow survey supervisor with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Snowpack in the surrounding mountains typically peaks on April 1, Julander said, but this year low-elevation snow began melting off about a month early. What is most concerning, he said, is that local streams and waterways have yet to show their seasonal rise in response to early runoff.

The unchanged streamflow suggests most of the March snowmelt has been absorbed by dry soils, as experts predicted could happen in response to the area’s ongoing drought.

“It’s been kind of a weird year,” said Julander. “We have been melting snow, but we haven’t seen stream flow increase.”

If the soils continue to absorb snowmelt, it could prevent some of this year’s runoff from replenishing local reservoirs.

However, Julander said snowpack in the surrounding mountains is still doing substantially better than this time last year.

Snotel sensors above Vernon, Grantsville and Tooele currently report that snowpack is at 61 percent of normal, 94 percent of normal and 82 percent of normal, respectively. This time last year, those same sensors read at 53 percent of normal, 73 percent of normal and 77 percent of normal, Julander said. Though March itself was dry, February precipitation gave the local snowpack a big boost, he added.

“March has been fairly dry, but February was a good month for water,” he said.

March saw a wider range of temperatures than is typical for Tooele this time of year. The daily high — which averaged 57 degrees last month, according to data from Ned Bevan, a cooperative weather observer for the National Weather Service — came in four degrees higher than the normal set by the Western Regional Climate Center. But the average daily low, 33 degrees, was three degrees colder than normal.

The month’s total precipitation came in less than half an inch behind normal, but with a total snowfall of 4.5 inches in the valley, last month’s snowfall came in 4.3 inches below normal. The valley is currently .62 inches behind on the water year, but most of that water has arrived in the form of rain. Since October, Tooele has received just 40 inches of snow, nearly 34 inches less than normal.

Although the weather remains unsettled and seems to bounce from one extreme to the next, Julander said he thought it would ultimately decide to dry out this summer.  

Emma Penrod

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Emma Penrod is a staff writer for the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin and covers Tooele City government, religion, health, the environment, ethnic issues and public infrastructure. A Tooele native, Penrod graduated from Tooele High School in 2010. She holds an associates degree from Utah State University, and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Brigham Young University. She worked for the newspaper as a high school intern starting in 2008. In 2010 she began working full-time in the newsroom until she left for college later that year. While at BYU, Penrod worked as a writer and editor for a small health magazine in Utah County. She interned with The Riverdale Press, a community newspaper in the Bronx, NY and with the Deseret News. She is also the author of two non-fiction books.

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