Federal Forecasters Unable to Predict Amount of Snowfall for Utah

Federal Forecasters Unable to Predict Amount of Snowfall for Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Federal forecasters aren't able to predict whether Utah's snowfall this winter will be above or below average, but they're pretty sure it won't be enough to end the drought.

In its winter outlook issued Thursday for the entire country, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Utah's weather patterns are too complex this year to make a prediction.

Jim Laver, director of the prediction center, said in a telephone interview, "A strong El Nino would help you, and we're not getting that. ... The question that remains is, what are you going to have?"

If a strong high-pressure ridge that has blocked storms from the west should move away, or at least leave frequently enough, near-normal snowfall could result, he told the Deseret News.

"The hope is that with neither El Nino nor La Nina dominating ... you get something closer to normal activities than in previous years," he said.

But weather computers show no indication that soaking storms will arrive in the immediate future.

Even if Utah experiences a normal winter, it will not end the drought, Laver said.

"In general, a multiyear drought doesn't go away in a large area quickly," Laver said. "We think there's going to be a remaining problem when the winter's over -- water shortages, that kind of stuff."

Larry Dunn, meteorologist in charge of Salt Lake City's National Weather Service forecast office, said the St. George region may have a warmer winter than average.

Whether the drought can be ended by a normal winter snowpack may be a matter of perception. For some water users, perhaps a good old-fashioned succession of normal winter storms could bring relief.

"Here in our part of the country, it sort of depends on which water user you're talking about," Dunn said.

Just average precipitation can't make a dent in the water deficits of huge reservoirs like Lake Powell, Flaming Gorge and Bear Lake, he said.

"But a just-average snowpack would do wonders for our smaller reservoirs," he said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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