The Times-Independent

August monsoons were ‘very helpful’

Jordan Clayton of the Natural Resources Conservation Service had good news to share regarding drought conditions in Utah.

File photo by Doug McMurdo

While the situation remains serious, the percentage of Utah classified as being in “exceptional drought” has shrunk to 24%, down from 51% in July — a month that also experienced strong monsoonal activity.

In the valleys:

“August was similar to July in Utah’s valley locations, where an unusually strong monsoon boosted our precipitation totals by an average of 1.5 inches,” wrote Clayton in his summary.

“Most SCAN sites in the state received well above-normal precipitation, bringing the statewide water year total to 7.3 inches.”

The five SCAN sites in the Sevier and San Pitch watersheds are now close to average for this time of year, with most other sites in the 70-90% of normal range, he wrote. Still lagging behind are the SCAN sites in the Weber-Ogden, Beaver, and Raft basins, plus a few in far southern Utah.

Soil moisture conditions at Utah’s SCAN sites have correspondingly improved from the rainfall, with sites in the North Central region well above-normal and other areas closer to average for this time of year. Soil temperatures across most of the state ended August near normal.

In the mountains:

“August precipitation in Utah’s mountain locations was very helpful,” said Clayton. “Statewide, we received 3.7 inches of rainfall for the month, which is 214% of normal and brings the water-year-to-date precipitation up to 79% of average.”

He said a key benefit of this late-summer rainfall “is an improved likelihood of an efficient snowmelt runoff (when next winter’s snowpack melts in spring 2022) due to elevated soil moisture levels. Encouragingly, soil moisture in Utah’s mountains has benefitted greatly from the unusually strong monsoon season and is currently above-average at 47% of saturation (compared with just 24% at this time last year).