Recapping the 2021 monsoon season in Utah

Utah Weather Stories
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(ABC4) – As we continue into October and are now a few weeks removed from summer, let’s take a look back at just how wet the monsoon season was in 2021.

Entering what is normally monsoon season here in Utah, throughout July and August, we were in a dire situation. Having just finished with the hottest and one of the driest Junes in our state records, along with most of the state under exceptional drought, we needed something to change. Luckily for us, the monsoon season came in with some major relief. Just what the doctor ordered for our drought-stricken state.

But how wet was this past season?

“The monsoon season was pretty wet. In fact, it was the 5th wettest July-August period in 27 years of record,” answers Jon Meyer, a Ph.D. Research Climatologist with the Utah Climate Center.

The summer rains helped relieve parts of Utah, taking us from the exceptional (level 5/5) category to the severe category (level 2/5). Mostly in southern Utah is where we normally see these storms occur.

Meyer tells us that “when we condense all of our station data and all of our rainfall measurements into a sort of a county-based perspective, southern counties saw anywhere between 4 and 6 inches of water between July and August.”

But all of this much-needed rain came at a hefty price, as cities in southern Utah saw a significant amount of flash flooding.

“I believe the August 18th outbreak produced the highest 24-hour rainfall observation the state has ever seen, with a station seeing 5.5 inches of rainfall in 24 hours. So, those kinds of numbers are eyepopping and it’s certainly what I am going to be remembering from this year’s monsoon season,” Meyer remarked.

This monsoon season was not just anomalous for the excessive amount of rainfall, but also just how persistent and strong the moisture surge was.

Many may be thinking, will this be the new normal now?

Meyer tells us, “I think the idea of this being the new normal of going from extreme wet and dry, feast and famine when it comes to precipitation is something we can expect more of. Now not always — we will have normal years and we will have back-to-back normal years, but the dice in our perspective has been loaded towards more and more extreme variability from year to year.” 

Essentially, this could be difficult for future water usage planning in the coming years.

When we look at the rainfall northern Utah received, we saw about 2 to 4 inches of water during that same July-August time period.

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