SALT LAKE CIY (ABC4) – As we finally shed January and move on to February in Utah, it’s time to take a quick look back and see just what type of month we had.
The biggest story with the month is the moisture. Unlike last year where we had almost no snow and were a little under the precipitation norms, 2023 gave us nice totals for both. And in Salt Lake City, it goes down as the 10th wettest January in history.
The rain in Salt Lake and all along the Wasatch Front was well above normal. We finished the month with 2.71″ of rain in the city, which almost doubles the normal total of 1.43″. And while it is very true that we got a lot of that total in two days (0.89″ on January 1st and 0.77 on the 10th), we still got a steady flow of rain and got some measurable rain on 21 of the 31 days in January. The snow was a little under normal for Salt Lake (10.1″ instead of the average amount of 12.0″), but it was also nice to see us get at least some amount of snow on 15 days in January. This is part of a great water year for Utah as we are at 7.78″ of precipitation since October, which is slightly more than half of the average total for a normal water year (October – September), at 15.52″.
And we still have our heaviest months of March – May ahead of us.
The lower amount of the snow can be chalked up to temperatures well above normal in the first part of the month, making it too warm for snow. A look at the temperature timeline for Salt Lake shows a tale of two halves. The first 15 days of January had an average temperature of 38.7 degrees in Salt Lake, but the final 16 days averaged only 28.7. Quick math tells you that there was a ten degree difference in the two halves and it didn’t go in the direction one might have expected. We certainly felt the chill the last few days of the month.
But while the snow didn’t fall much in Salt Lake, it had no problems in the mountains. We were getting constant snow storms in the mountains and resorts, and skiers where very happy to “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”. Alta is one of the spots that is having a fantastic year. By the end of January, they were sitting at 472″ inches of snow. To give you an idea of how great this is, the ten-year average for snowfall at Alta for a season (October – April) is 472″. 2023 has already matched that total with some heavy snow months to come. We could be looking at over 700″ by the time all of this is over in Alta.
All of the above is great for the state’s water situation. Not that we’re even close to being out of the woods in our water needs, we’ve had too much drought for that — but it is a nice improvement. As of the end of the month, we are at 172% of a normal snowpack. And while it is still possible that we could see a dry period hit us, like it did last year, we are still at right around 100% of our normal water total. That means that anything else we can pack on top of the snowpack is extra, and we can use a lot of extra here in Utah.
While I’ve focused on northern Utah so far, it is important to point out that the rest of the state has done very well so far. In Cedar City, they had 2.15″ of rainfall, nearly tripling the average monthly total of 0.79″. But where they really shined was in snow — Cedar City blew past Salt Lake’s snow total with a very healthy 16.8″ of white stuff hitting the south. Cedar City does average almost 10″ of snow in January, but getting over 16″ is really something. We even had a few days in the month where St. George got a little bit of snow!
So as we say goodbye to January, there is hope that this could continue to be a very good water year for the state. But with that hope comes that reminder that we have to do everything we can to conserve the water we do get. Let’s all do our part to start water conservation now and not wait until all the ads remind us to do it. It was a great month for water, but we still live in a desert.