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Sun or storms? General conference weather patterns are consistently inconsistent

Published: Thursday, Oct. 4 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Those who attend LDS general conference take their weather reports very seriously.

Just ask KSL meteorologist Kevin Eubank, who learned this lesson firsthand.

“Two or three years ago, we went out and said a storm is coming (Sunday), but not until the afternoon session.” Eubank said. “You're fine (in the morning).”

The next day, Eubank awoke to a tempest of rain mixed with snow. Later on when he saw video footage of the umbrellas and shivering families, the weatherman felt guilty.

“You just said less than 24 hours ago that people would be OK for the morning session, but the storm came early. It’s a cold Sunday morning and you are just kicking yourself,” said Eubank, who heard about his forecast through email, on Facebook and even at church meetings the following week. “We do our very best to give the most accurate forecast, then it bites you, and you’re like, conference weather."

Each April and October, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hosts tens of thousands of people at general conference. Because thousands are standing in lines at the Conference Center, the weather reports for those important weekends are some of the most scrutinized all year long. And year after year, despite high-tech instruments and equipment, the conference weekend weather has been consistently inconsistent, the KSL meteorologist said.

“Inevitably, the weather is volatile,” Eubank said. “It has nothing to do with general conference; it has to do with the time of the year.”

Historical trends

In the summer of 1983, R. Clayton Brough and David R. James published an in-depth study (Conference vs. the Weather) on weather patterns surrounding general conference. This study was updated in 2006.

According to the report, the earliest weather report came during the April 6-8, 1842, conference held in Nauvoo, Ill. Church members recorded, “the sun shone clear, warm and pleasant. The snow has nearly all disappeared … (and) ice (is) about two feet (thick) on (the) Mississippi River.”

Since 1888, all annual and semiannual conferences have been held on or next to Temple Square in Salt Lake City, except for one instance when a major flu epidemic forced the cancellation of the 1957 October conference.

Citing data from the National Weather Service over a 118-year period (1888-2005), the report says 53 percent of all general conferences held in Salt Lake City have experienced wet weather.

April tends to get more moisture than October. The report indicates 64 percent (76 of 118) of April conferences have received measurable precipitation. In contrast, 58 percent (69 of 118) of all October conferences have reported dry conditions.

Other findings include:

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