SALT LAKE CITY — This year is no longer on pace to be among the top 10 driest in Utah history thanks to a series of monsoonal storms that ventured into the state last month.
Last month was Utah's fifth hottest but 12th wettest July on record, according to a new dataset released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Centers for Environmental Information Monday. Following the update, 2021 is now the 23rd driest year through July on record after it was the eighth driest through June. It follows 2020, which was Utah's driest year since the data was first tracked in 1895.
Meanwhile, 2021 is moving up the charts in terms of the warmest on record. Following July, the year is now on pace to be the eighth warmest on record. It was the 12th warmest after June and the 26th warmest after May.
July's rain impact
The 1.66 inches of rain logged by the agency last month is the most in July since 1.72 inches was recorded in 2011. The July record remains 2.5 inches recorded in 1936.
The rain recorded in July impacted Utah for good and bad.
First, it has helped improve the statewide drought some. About half of the state is listed in an "exceptional" drought compared to nearly 70% a few weeks ago, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. About 99% of Utah still remains in at least "extreme" drought.
The precipitation has also helped lessen fire danger some. For instance, Zion National Park eased back its restrictions to "Level 1" on July 30, which means fires are allowed at some of its campgrounds with established fire rings again.
At the same time, the deluge of water has resulted in serious flashing flooding in southern Utah. A storm that dumped several inches of rain near Lund in Iron County on July 15 flooded a Union Pacific railroad line, causing a 95-car train to derail. Just a week later, Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards declared a state of emergency after the city received several inches of rain in a short amount of time that led to severe flood damage in some parts of the area.
The monsoonal pattern carried into the start of August, which is when downpours resulted in massive flash flood damage in Enoch. Gov. Spencer Cox said Monday that he is preparing the paperwork to declare a state emergency regarding the flooding there.
The year is getting hotter
The July 2021 average temperature was 76 degrees, which was good for the fifth hottest on record. Perhaps most interesting — or alarming — is that the top seven hottest Julys on record, and nine of the top 10 hottest Julys, have occurred within the past 20 years.
It also follows what was the hottest June on record in state history, and that's helped propel 2021 to be on pace to be in the top 10 hottest in Utah history.
Adding in July, Utah's average temperature this year is now 50.3 degrees, which is 3.3 degrees above the 20th century average and tied for eighth place with 1994. The record through July is 52 degrees, set in 1934 — the year that remains the hottest on record in Utah history. Eight of the top 10 hottest years through July have happened since 2000.
In other heat categories, Utah's average high temperature in July 2021 was 90.6 degrees, which is the seventh-hottest for a July on record. Its minimum temperature was 61.4 degrees, which is the second-warmest on record.
July resulted in some local records being broken. Salt Lake City, for instance, recorded not only its hottest July on record but the hottest month since the National Weather Service began tracking weather data in the city in 1874. Its average temperature in July was 85.7 degrees; the average maximum temperature was 98.4 degrees with the help of 11 100-degree days.
St. George also unofficially reached 117 degrees on July 11, matching the hottest temperature ever recorded in Utah.
What about the majority of the U.S.?
Last month's average temperature across the contiguous U.S. was 75.5 degrees — just 0.5 degrees below Utah's July average and 1.9 degrees above the U.S. 20th century average. It tied 1954 and 2003 as the 13th hottest on record. Through July, 2021 is the 14th warmest on record for the U.S.
The contiguous U.S. also received 3.36 inches of rain in July, making it the sixth-wettest July on record. Precipitation totals across the lower 48 remain about 0.09 inches below average for this time in the year, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.