Utah's Drought is Over!

by R. Clayton Brough and David R. James, UCCW Climatologists

April 30, 2005

See also UCCW's Latest Long-Range Outlook for Utah

     As of April 30, 2005, Utah's six-year long drought is over! (The drought occurred during the water-years of 1998-1999 through 2003-2004.) According to NOAA's most recent U.S. Drought Monitor, most of Utah is no longer in a drought. (For further statistical analysis and precipitation projections, see NOAA's Seasonal Drought Outlook and Long-Term Drought Indicator, and UDWR's Utah Drought Conditions.)
     With Utah's latest drought at an end, when might our next long-term drought occur? According to dendroclimatology and climatological statistics, Utah has experienced 10 droughts in the past 205 years-with the longest one lasting 14 years, from 1870 to 1883. Interestingly, the droughts of the 1800's lasted an average of 10 years, with 16 years between drought periods. During the 1900's, droughts lasted an average of 8 years, with 13 years between drought periods. So over the past two centuries, droughts have become a little more frequent but not as long-lasting. According to climatological frequencies and probabilities, Utah could possibly experience another drought period lasting six to ten years beginning sometime within the next 10 to 16 years (or sometime during 2015-2021). In the meantime--and because of our expanding population and water use--we should increase our water conservation efforts and improve and maintain our water storage facilities.