Despite receiving record snowfall in November, Utah will have only average precipitation this winter, national weather forecasters predict.
And only average moisture during December, January and February may not be enough to recharge low reservoirs and groundwater levels.But for those who hate the cold, forecasters have some brighter news: Utah's winter should also be warmer than normal.
That's the best guess available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which announced its annual winter outlook on Monday.
Predictions aside, however, Utah is off to a great start.
As of 5 a.m. Tuesday, Alta had 164 inches of snow at the Guard Station, said William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge of the Salt Lake office of the National Weather Service, Salt Lake International Airport. The previous record was 143.5 inches in November 1983.
Records at Alta date to the fall of 1944.
Snowbird also set a record for snowfall in November with 123 inches. The previous record was 117.5 inches in 1985.
The two resorts normally receive 65 inches of snow in November.
Between Monday afternoon and early Tuesday, Alta received 16 inches of new snow; Snowbird, 14 inches; Solitude, 10 inches; Brighton, 9 inches; Park City, 5 inches; and Powder Mountain, 8 inches.
Meanwhile, most areas along the Wasatch Front received 1 to 2 inches of new snow.
But don't expect more snow in the next few days, Alder said. A high pressure system will push the storm out, bringing haze to Wasatch Front valleys. The inversion will push ski resort temperatures into the 40s by Thursday, while valleys remain cool and somewhat foggy.
Despite the less-than-desirable long-range prediction, national forecasters admit their crystal ball is a bit murky this year.
"We don't have strong indicators, especially in the West," said Donald L. Gilman, chief long range forecaster for NOAA's National Weather Service. "It could go either way."
But according to the weather service's best guess, most of Utah has a 55 percent chance of having higher temperatures than normal during December, January and February.
The only two exceptions are the Cache Valley region and the Uintah Basin, where temperatures are expected to simply be average.
Meanwhile, the weather service expects the entire state to have average precipitation. Gilman said the national predictions are based upon where the weather service thinks high and low pressure zones will occur at key points during the winter. That determines likely storm paths.
The trouble is, the agency really can't tell yet whether a high or low will develop _ so it is predicting average precipitation, Gilman said.
The agency also feels, he said, that of anywhere in the United States, the need for precipitation is most acute in the Rocky Mountain and Northwest states.
He said the snowpack there "has been insufficient for two consecutive winters. The reservoirs are down. One more and they'll have trouble with hydroelectric power and trouble with irrigation."
For those who don't like the forecast and hope the weather service is wrong, Gilman admitted that the accuracy of his agency's forecast last year was "absolutely terrible."
But for those who hope it is on the mark, Gilman pointed out that his agency's prediction last summer of continued drought conditions was "extremely accurate."