SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) — The 2022-2023 winter season has been monumental for the state of Utah with unprecedented moisture both in the valleys and mountains. Our snowpack percents have soared statewide, and when examining snowpack, scientists closely monitor the snow-water-equivalent or SWE. The SWE is a number that represents the depth of the water if you melt down the state’s current snowpack. Statewide SWE has been garnering a lot of attention in the last few weeks.

Now, as of March 24, we’ve officially broken the snowpack record with an SWE of 26.1″, according to a post by NRCS Utah on Twitter.

Recording keeping at Utah’s SNOTEL sites started in the late 1970s, and today those sites have increased in number and are monitored by the NRCS Utah, or the Natural Resource Conservation Service

Since the end of October, we have been ahead of the curve of where our snowpack has been compared to the average. Specifically, in the last ten days, our snowpack has been at record levels. Since March 15 we have been breaking the daily snowpack records with our snow-water equivalent On March 15 we hit 23.2″ statewide SWE. We continue to grasp daily records for statewide SWE, but the state of Utah has officially hit an all-time record by reaching an SWE of 26.1″! 

“We did not see this coming. The third consecutive La Niña year, there is not typically a correlation with La Niña and big snow years,” Clayton, the Utah Snow Survey supervisor told Chief Meteorologist Alana Brophy.

The old record was set back in 1983 on April 13 and we subsequently hit 26″ on April 16 and April 17 that same year. It’s no surprise to Utahns, as that year also ushered in epic flooding as many remember the river of flood water in State Street in Salt Lake City. 

If you compare our current numbers to this time last year, the average statewide SWE was just shy of 12″! 

Here’s a list of top 5 snowpack years: 

  1. 1983: 26″
    This year: 26″
  2. 1982: 25.5″
  3. 1984: 25.2″
  4. 2011: 24.3
  5. 1997: 23.7″

With this new record on deck and similarities to 1983 already evident, many wonder why we did so well this year with accumulation and if we will see widespread flooding.

This winter has provided a very active latter with storm after storm impacting the state. In years past, a large area of high pressure developed and centered itself in the SW United States and acted as a storm block. This year, the high pressure never developed and Utah tapped into storm after storm, including several atmospheric rivers, which allowed for plenty of snow to accrue. 

When it comes to flooding, it really depends on what’s ahead. If we warm up slowly, that will spread snowmelt over a longer period of time and lower the risk the widespread flooding. It’s a scenario that didn’t happen back in 1983.

“One of the issues of 1983, we stayed cold and snowy deep into the spring, and warmed up quickly. If we see that again, it does increase our flood risk,” Jordan Clayton, the Snow Survey Supervisor of Utah, said.

As we sit with record-breaking snowpack in our mountains, it’s important to note that based on long-range projections, we will likely add more snow in the coming weeks as an active weather pattern holds on. It’s also important to note that beneath our snowpack, we have good soil moisture which yields more efficient runoff, something we have not seen in several years. 

Be sure to stay tuned for updates on runoff, weather and snowpack as we move through the spring. We’ll keep you posted on-air, online, and on social media! We are Good4Utah!