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John Daley ReportingBrian McInerney, Hydrologist, National Weather Service: "If we replicate the conditions we had last year, we're going to be in a bad time."
With five years of drought now under our belts this winter is crunch time, and the forecast for this winter season is a toss-up. Will Utah get a drought-breaking winter? Don't count on it according to federal weather forecasters.
They say long-range computer models suggest there's just as good a chance we'll have below average moisture as our moisture totals will be above average.
Our region thrives or struggles based on the snow pack we can collect in our mountains during the winter. Utah desperately needs a wet and snowy weather, but national weather forecasters say this winter could go either way.
Utah's skies are capable of delivering snow and plenty of it, but it's been a long while now since we saw a super snowy winter. Last winter was downright bizarre with January feeling more like winter. Federal weather forecasters just released the forecast for this winter and they say weather patterns are simply too complex to say just which kind of winter we'll get this year.
Brian McInerney, Hydrologist, National Weather Service: "We have a long range forecast that points to equal chances of above normal and below conditions throughout this wintertime. And that's due to a neutral enso condition or el nino with what's going on down in the equitorial pacific."
Forecasters say average precipitation can't erase the water deficits of huge lakes like Flaming Gorge, Lake Powell and Bear Lake, but it could do wonders for smaller reservoirs. It could also make an impact on Utah's above average temperatures. For the water year that just ended Utah temps were 2.6 degrees above normal.
The state was dogged by dry, warm weather during two key winter months. December 2002--temperatures were 5.5 degrees above normal. And January was a record breaker--9.4 degrees above normal. To put a dent in the drought the weather gods need to deliver wet, cool conditions in the heart of the winter.
Researchers say temperatures are on the globe are on the rise, having an impact on winter weather.
Andrea Brunelle, Professor of Geography, University of Utah: "There's very little debate I think among the majority of the scientific community that global warming is affecting climate regimes and weather patterns."
Here's the ideal scenario: lots of moisture the next couple of months to saturate the soil, and then a heavy snow pack.