Natural Disasters and Utah’s Weather: 2020 was one for the record books


(ABC4 News) – As we bid farewell to arguably the worst year in recorded history, it’s important to look back on Utah’s weather and hope for better days ahead.

December in the capital city was rather average. The normal average temperature in Salt Lake City for the month is 30.3°. In 2020, the average temperature was 30.0°. An average temperature is calculated by adding up all the daily high and low temperatures and dividing by the number of days within a given month.

The record for average temperature is 41.7° set in 1917. Unfortunately, for the sixth consecutive month and 8 out of the last 9 months of 2020, Salt Lake City finished well below their normal total monthly precipitation with just .34″. The normal total precipitation in December is 1.41″ with record precipitation in 1983 of 4.37″. It was also the 8th driest December ever.

December is also the snowiest month on average in Salt Lake City with 13.2″. However, the city only measured 1.8″ making it the 9th least snowy December ever.

As for 2020 as a whole, Salt Lake City recorded the 5th warmest average high temperature of 66.6°, the 7th warmest average low temperature of 44.7°, and an overall average temperature of 55.6° placing 2020 as the 6th warmest year on record. 2012 remains the warmest year on record with an average temperature of 56.6°.

Yearly snowfall in Salt Lake City was 38.5″ off from the normal annual snowfall of 56.2″. This is the 7th consecutive year with below-normal snowfall and the 11th time since 2008 that the city measured below normal annual snowfall. 

Salt Lake City finished the year with just 8.98″ of total precipitation, the second driest year ever. A normal precipitation year equivalates to 16.1″. With a little more than half of the total yearly precipitation, the state and region remain in an ongoing drought that continues its stranglehold on agriculture and snowpack numbers heading into the heart of winter.

Almost 70% of the state has been placed under an exceptional drought, the highest level on the drought monitor. With a slow start to the winter season, we would need several blockbuster storms or a consistent storm cycle to put a dent in a drought with no end in sight.

There were a few memorable natural disaster-related events in the state. In March, the Wasatch Front was shaken by a 5.7 magnitude earthquake causing considerable damage near the epicenter in Magna. May brought unthinkable tragedy when two young sisters from West Jordan were swept away by flash floods in Little Wildhorse Canyon near Goblin Valley State Park.

September arrived with two record-breaking events: the first one occurred on September 5 when Salt Lake City recorded the second latest 100° high temperature ever and just 3 days later, 100 mph wind gusts leftover 200,000 Northern Utah residents without power, downed trees, and property damage from one of the strongest windstorms in history.

*As the capital of Utah, Salt Lake City has been the most consistent source for record-keeping with regards to temperature, precipitation, snowfall, and other weather-related events and records since 1874.

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