2023’s major snowfall ended Utah’s drought? Not yet.
The National Weather Service's latest report on Tuesday indicates that although Utah's drought conditions are improving, the state is not yet entirely out of danger. The report states that this year, from 1894 to 2023, is the ninth wettest year to date, whereas 2020 was the driest year on record. By the end of 2020, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that 90% of the state was in a state of extreme or exceptional drought.
The National Weather Service report measures drought levels in these 5 levels:
- D0 = Abnormally dry
- Dryland crops are struggling
- Water for cattle is limited
- D1= Moderate drought
- Soil moisture is low; winter wheat germination is poor
- Springs are drying
- Feed for cattle is limited
- D2 = Severe Drought
- Pasture and water are inadequate for cattle; ranching management practices change
- Air quality is poor; dust is a problem
- Streams and ponds are dry
- D3= Extreme Drought
- Fire danger increases; fire bans on public land are implemented
- Native vegetation is stressed
- Streamflow is low
- D4= Exceptional Drought
- Fire restrictions increase
- Irrigation water allotments are cut
Utah's drought situation has been gradually improving, as per the latest NWS report. Currently, only 3.9% of the state is in D3-extreme drought conditions, a significant improvement from last month's 18.5%. None of Utah is categorized in the D4-exceptional drought level. Although 48.7% of Utah is still in D2-severe drought, it is a lower percentage than last week and last month. Last week, 53% of the state was in D2-severe drought, indicating that 4.3% of Utah's conditions have improved this week, and compared to last month's 74%, 25.3% of Utah's conditions have improved this month. Additionally, Utah's D1-moderate level has decreased from 96.3% last week to 89.2% this week. This improvement has led to most of that area moving to the D0-abnormally dry level, and some areas have moved out of drought entirely.
As per the NWS report, 1.9% of Utah has moved out of drought conditions this week alone, and only 97.4% of Utah is in a drought level this week, an improvement from 99.35% last month.