La Niña, rising global temperatures lead forecasters to predict a warm, dry winter for Utah

A lone kayaker travels across the water at Gunlock Reservoir in Washington County, Utah. Forecasters are anticipating a drier, warmer climate this winter, thanks largely to a La Nina pattern out of the Pacific Ocean and higher temperatures driven by climate change.
A lone kayaker travels across the water at Gunlock Reservoir in Washington County, Utah. Forecasters are anticipating a drier, warmer climate this winter, thanks largely to a La Nina pattern out of the Pacific Ocean and higher temperatures driven by climate change.

Climate change, higher overall temperatures and expectations for an unusual third consecutive year with La Niña conditions could all combine to bring another warm, dry winter to southern Utah and the rest of the American West.

Lake Powell, Lake Mead and the Great Salt Lake are all at historic lows after years of drought and increased use by growing human populations, and none are expected to get much relief this winter, according to new long-range federal forecasts.

The models suggest higher-than-average temperatures and lower-than-average precipitation across the entire region this year, according to a slate of scientists who presented in a meeting Tuesday hosted by multiple government agencies, including the National Integrated Drought Information System.

“Even though uncertainty abounds with these regional forecasts, long-term I would (expect) it to trend like this,” said Peter Goble, a climatologist and Water Availability Specialist with the Colorado Climate Center. “Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.”

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