SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's unusually dry winter shows no sign of turning around halfway through the season, federal water supply officials said in a monthly report.
The trend is bad news for skiers and a threat to future water supplies for agriculture.
Mountain snowpack is as little as 51 percent of average east of Beaver for this time of the year, the National Resources Conservation Service said in its latest report for February.
The statewide snow-water equivalent figure worked out to 68 percent of normal by the end of January.
Mountain streams are expected to carry as little as 42 percent of normal snowmelt this spring, according to the Utah Water Supply Outlook. The National Resources Conservation Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that conducts the Utah Snow Survey.
"The probability of getting back to average is really low" this far into the winter, said survey supervisor Randy Julander. "January doubled our snowpack and we loved that, but we're getting back into dry, warm weather."
The weather is a big change from last year, when a record wet spring followed a winter of bountiful snow. The precipitation filled Utah's 41 key reservoirs. They are still at 86 percent of average, the report said, meaning ranchers and farmers have no cause for immediate worry.
"Our weather has been one of extremes in the past year," said Brian McInerney, a National Weather Service hydrologist based in Salt Lake City. "The storms are becoming less frequent,"
December was driest on record dating back to 1872 for the Wasatch mountains east of Salt Lake City.
One possibility, however remote, is that fewer but more intense winter storms put Utah back near its average, McInerney said.
No storms were forecast for Utah for the next seven days.
Western storms seem to be bypassing the central Rocky Mountains for areas north and south this winter while leaving California even dryer. California's Sierra Nevadas had as little as 15 inches of snow on the ground less than a week ago.
Colorado snowpacks also remain below average.