Utah on track for a record dry December
Weather • Arid month the complete opposite of state's 2010 record-breaking snow season.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Wasatch Front and much of the state are on track for the driest December since weather records have been kept.

For skiers it is depressing. But golfers aren't complaining.

As of Thursday evening, the National Weather Service station at Salt Lake City International Airport had received just 0.03 inches of water from snow and rain this month. And there isn't much moisture in the forecast.

"It's like no moisture," said weather service meteorologist Randy Graham. "It's pretty brutal."

The airport's 0.03 inches is less than the previous record set in December 1976, when only 0.08 inches of water fell as rain or snow. The winter of 1976-77 was the skimpiest ski season in memory.

This dry December could not be more different than a year ago, when the weather service recorded 3.04 inches of water at the airport. It kicked off a snow season for Utah that broke records, with many areas getting 300 to 400 percent of normal precipitation and culminating with a final day of skiing July 4 at Snowbird.

This year, north and central Utah's December weather has been guided by a large ridge of high pressure off the Pacific Coast, Graham said. That has forced most storms to the north or the south.

"We're just not getting a lot of storm activity," Graham said.

Another quick-moving system is expected to pass over northern Utah on Friday night into Saturday, Graham said. But it doesn't look to be packing much moisture.

"We're not anticipating any significant valley precipitation," he said. "The mountains may get an inch [of snow]."

Friday's high temperature is expected to hit 57 degrees in Salt Lake City ahead of the approaching storm, which offers just a 20 percent chance of snow. Temperatures will drop to 31 by Saturday morning. The 20 percent chance of snow will persist through Saturday, yielding to clear skies Saturday night with a low of 25.

In St. George, however, sunny conditions will prevail Friday and Saturday. The high is expected to be in the low 60s Friday and the high 50s Saturday.

While the weather has not been cooperating for skiers, golfers are loving it.

As of Thursday afternoon, Meadowbrook Golf Course in Salt Lake County had booked 892 nine-hole rounds of golf for December. That compares to zero rounds for the month last year, said Tim Fernau, head golf pro.

When December doesn't bring snow, the golfers come out, he said. In 2008, for example, 544 nine-hole rounds were played in December. But in 2007, there were none because it snowed.

So far this month, the course has generated $13,500 in total revenue. That compares to $134,000 in July, Fernau said.

Salt Lake County and other municipal governments have saved on snow removal this month. But after last winter, it is a welcome break, said Kevyn Smeltzer, the county's operation division director for public works.

Because the county is on a calendar year, December comes at the end of Smeltzer's snow budget year, rather than at the beginning, like most cities. But he still has a little snow-removal money left, thanks to the dry weather.

"If it was a December like last December, I'd be asking for a budget adjustment right now," he said.

csmart@sltrib.com —

December moisture

30-year average • 1.38 inches

1983 ­• 4.37 inches (record high)

1976 • 0.08 inch (previous record low)

2011 • 0.03 inch (new record low)

2010 • 3.04 inches

Source: National Weather Service