Record warmth leads to water woes

MIDWAY, Utah (News4Utah) - A ridiculously warm start to 2018 is setting up the state for water woes if we don't see the weather pattern change.

The impacts of the above average warmth are starting to be noticed from our recreation to our reservoirs. The Midway Ice Castles halted operations Monday after the spike in temperatures.

"Here we are the first week of February and I really think Punxsutawney Phil got it wrong. He was predicting six more weeks of winter, maybe for the east coast but here in Utah it feels like springtime," Rachel Kahler, the director of marketing for Midway Ice Castle said.

Valley temperatures are mirroring what we typically see in March and April. Daytime highs have hit the 50s in Salt Lake City 17 times since the year began. Overnight lows have stopped hitting the freezing point, and that leaves the builder of the ice castle in a bad spot.

"That's been the struggle this year. How can we build an ice castle when we aren't getting freezing temperatures at night and maintaining the ice castles during the day with the sunshine, it's really tough," Rachel Kahler, the director of marketing for Midway Ice Castle, said.

The Midway Ice Castles are hoping a late season cold snap and storm will allow them to open for one more weekend, but one more storm can't even come close to saving our meager snow pack. The warm temperatures are chipping away at the small amount of snow we have and have completely melted off lower elevation snow. Losing snow in our valleys this early in the season starts a ripple effect that isn't good for an already tough year.

"It's actually ripened the snow pack in mid elevations. When it's ripened, it means it's ready to start melting out," Troy Brosten, a hydrologist with the state snow survey, said.

If the mid level snow melts now, when the high elevation snow melts, soils at the mid level will absorb some of it, which isn't great for our runoff. The high elevation snow is holding steady now, but the snow survey says it's a little bit of a worrisome pattern.

"Essentially it means, we could result in a much poorer runoff and less efficient runoff conditions," Troy Brosten, a hydrologist with the state snow survey, said.

A majority of the state is sitting at 50 percent of average for snowpack with the exception of areas around Bear Lake and the north slopes of the Uinta mountains. Right now, we have a less than 10 percent chance of making it to a normal snow pack by April 1. If the warmth keeps up, we will have to gamble on the spring rains making up some of our deficit. 

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