SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The highly anticipated, long range 2022 summer outlook for temperature and precipitation was recently announced for the United States. The long-range predictions are put out by the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, and to be honest, it’s not the best news for the Beehive State.
La Niña is a climate pattern that features cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. The opposite climate pattern is a warm sea surface temperature regime, classified as El Niño, which presents with a different climate reaction for the U.S. According to the latest outlooks from NOAA, there is a 59% chance La Niña will hang around through August, and about a 55% chance of an even longer run into the fall, which would be a rare three-year period of below-normal sea surface temperatures in the equatorial eastern Pacific that kicked off in the summer of 2020. This is taken into consideration when the long range for June, July and August forecast is compiled by NOAA.
Overall, the forecast for the U.S. favors above average warmth for the entire continental United States, with the Summer 2022 Outlook bringing significantly above-average heat to the Intermountain West, Desert Southwest and Southern Plains. As far as precipitation goes, it’s a grim picture with the chance of below average precipitation from Eastern Washington and Oregon, through Northern Idaho, Montana, and parts of Wyoming, Colorado, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas as well as Northern Texas. The only parts of the U.S. looking at above-average precipitation includes the East Coast from Massachusetts to Florida, the Gulf Coast and a small part of SE Arizona and SW New Mexico. So, what about us?
Here in the Beehive State, Utah is forecast to face above-average warmth, so the heat will be rough as we trek through June, July and August. The only exception is in the extreme Southwest corner of the state in Washington County, which will be hot, but a tiny bit closer to seasonal norms than the rest of the state. Simultaneously, the Northern and Northeastern part of the state has a chance of slightly below-average precipitation, while the rest of the state has equal chances to see wetter or drier conditions.
NOAA’s 90-day forecast shows 95% of the U.S. expects above-average summer temperatures, which means we are facing the chance of sweltering heat and below average rainfall. That spells trouble for the West, and Utah, considering how drought has a firm grip on the region. Our most recent drought monitor showed more than half of Utah falls into the “extreme drought” category.
Extreme drought is the 4th level on the drought monitor scale of five. Extreme drought jumped 7% from the week prior, and now impacts SE Utah, the South-Central part of the state, an expansive portion of the West Desert, the Wasatch Back and parts of Duchesne and Cache Counties in Northern and Eastern Utah. Water restrictions continue to roll out statewide with a lackluster winter now on record and snowpack wrapping below average for the season.
Worsening drought conditions are a frightening thought, as wildfire season already ignited in the Desert Southwest. Many of our neighboring states are already battling exceptional drought like California and New Mexico, with the largest wildfire in New Mexico history, the Hermits Creek/Calf Canyon fire, charring hundreds of thousands of acres already. Closer to home, Utah has already dealt with Red Flag Warnings in Southern and Eastern Utah, and that will become more widespread as we continue to dry out. Fire fuels and whipping winds plague the state as weather systems impact us.
You may remember that last year’s monsoon season packed a punch in SW Utah. Moisture arrived with some heavy summer rains, but we know in Utah, you can’t bank on a miracle monsoon every year. That being said, some relief is possible if the seasonal monsoon rains can creep into the forecast in the desert Southwest. Right now, parts of Arizona and New Mexico see a small benefit in the forecast, but that could change. In Utah we see monsoon season from mid-July to mid-September, and typically, the summer monsoon rains reach their peak July and into August.
Bottom line? The long-range forecast for June, July and August in Utah brings very hot and likely dry conditions, bringing a ripple effect to drought and wildfire season in the West.
Just a reminder when it comes to seasonal outlooks, they don’t predict storms. These look at trends and forecast possible patterns, so when it comes to Utah’s Most Accurate Forecast, leave it to the Pinpoint Weather Team to bring you accurate timelines with incoming storms.