It's August 1st, which means we are officially beyond the hottest part of the summer! We'll take a look at what we've seen so far this summer and the trends from here on out.
Short Term Forecast
It is Wednesday! Hump Day! And for those of us in Utah, that hump is more than just the middle of the week. This hump is the hottest part of summer, climatologically speaking. The hottest week of summer for Utah is, on average, the last week of July. As you can see in the below graph, we are now beyond that:
From here on out, average temps drop until bottoming out in late December and early January. It's gradual at first. SLC's average high temp drops from 94F to 86F during the month of August. Then, it drops 14F in September, another 14F in October, and 16F in November. So it may be be gradual cooling at first, but it picks up momentum as the northern hemisphere further tilts away from the sun.
Our summer so far:
Well, it's been hot and dry -- to put it simply. Southern Utah has seen quite a healthy monsoon season so far with numerous flash floods. But the monsoon has had more difficulty making it to northern Utah. I know that some areas of the Wasatch have been forced to implement unprecedented water restrictions due to a combination of a poor spring snowpack and meager summer precipitation. As for SLC, it's been the 8th driest summer on record so far:
Less than a quarter of an inch of rain. A few areas have seen quite a bit more due to the localized nature of thunderstorms. But this does paint a relatively accurate picture of the dry summer so far in Northern Utah. As for temperature, it's been an interesting summer. We have been consistently hot, without any serious or prolonged heat waves. For example, this is the 4th hottest summer on record by daily mean temperature:
However, by my count, we've only had one day of 100F. Usually we have a handful by now. So it's been consistently hot, but lacked some of the extremes we usually see. It should be noted that despite the fact that average temperatures are still on the decline, we are perfectly capable of seeing 100F temps right up into the first week of September -- so we are far from out of the woods. It should also be noted that the Top 4 hottest summers in SLC history have all come within the past 6 years....
OK, so we've established that it's hot and dry. It's also been smoky. There have certainly been several fires in Utah. But the worst of the fires have been in California to our west. Redding area has been devastated recently by the Carr Fire. Another fire closed down Yosemite. If you look at the below HRRR smoke forecast map, you can see the origins of most smoke to our west. Utah is generally on the fringes of the worst of it.
Of course, smoke seems like a minor inconvenience in comparison to the loss of life and property that some in California are dealing with. My heart goes out to them. After the devastation in Sonoma and Napa area last year, this appears to be the new normal in that region.
For us, we will continue to be warm (or hot). But should see some relief over the coming days in the form of a monsoonal moisture push. Afternoon showers and thunderstorms will be present today, and especially Thursday. Perhaps lingering on Friday. Of course, these are hit-or-miss in nature, so there's no guarantee you'll see something -- but at least there's a chance. You can see the HRRR has these firing up later today, then moving from west to east across the state:
Generally fast movement of these storms means that rainfall will likely be brief and relatively insubstantial. But every little bit helps, right? My garden could certainly use the rain and so could the mountain bike trails which are full-on moondust right now.
August typically is the biggest month for monsoonal moisture in the Great Basin. Hopefully we see some good moisture surges that bring showers to the region. As we head into fall, the monsoon will subside as always and we should start to see some pacific troughs developing. Such is the way of things. El Nino continues to be a big talking point in the ski/weather community. A reminder that at this point it looks to only be a weak to moderate event, and El Nino has little effect on Utah snowfall. If I were you, I wouldn't concern myself with ENSO cycles too much.
If you're wondering what I've been up to this summer. The answer is not much... Trying to beat the heat whenever possible. If you follow us on social media, you've seen some of the pics and videos. I went backpacking to Sawtooth Lake in Idaho a couple weeks ago. It was nice and cool and stunningly beautiful. I took full advantage of the cool air in the middle of the night to take some Milky Way photos:
Despite forecasts for clear skies, we found that we were battling clouds for much of the evening. Weather finds a way to screw with me year-round. Luckily, the clouds added some intrigue to a couple photos and we also had about a 10 minute window with no clouds to shoot the upper image.
Aside from that, I've stayed in Utah. Done a lot of early morning bike rides to beat the heat. Including a sunrise ride at Alta yesterday:
Cool mountain temps and lots of wildflowers and wildlife! Great Tuesday morning bike ride! pic.twitter.com/xlhncrl6xU— WasatchSnowForecast (@WasatchSnow) July 31, 2018
If you're wondering how that video was shot, I attached a selfie stick to my frame. It sticks out in front of me by about 18" and holds a Rylo 360 camera. If you put the camera on the stick just right, the selfie stick is in the camera's "blind spot" and gives the appearance of floating in front of you. It makes for really cool footage. The only problem is that you look like a total tool riding around with a selfie stick attached to your bike. It was fun to do it once and get the shot. Not sure I'll do this too often, though, as it's not worth the hassle.
Anyway, summer for me is a long and often tortuous endeavor. I'm certainly glad to be on the backside of the temperature curve. Autumn is one of my favorite seasons in Utah, and before long the leaves will be changing and the hint of winter will be in the air.
Evan | OpenSnow