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Drought conditions in Utah during 1999-2002: A historical perspective

May 1, 2003

Utah’s weather is prone to extremes – from severe flooding to multiyear droughts. Five major floods occurred during 1952, 1965, 1966, 1983, and 1984, and six multiyear droughts occurred during 1896-1905, 1930-36, 1953-65, 1974-78 (U.S. Geological Survey, 1991), and more recently during 1988-93 and 1999-2002. The areal extent of floods generally is limited in size from one to several watersheds, whereas droughts generally affect most or all of the state. Southern Utah, in particular the Virgin River drainage basin, began experiencing drought conditions during the winter of 1998-99. By 2000, drought conditions were evident throughout all of Utah. The current drought (1999-2002) is comparable in length and magnitude to previous droughts; however, with population growth and increased demand for water in Utah, the general effect is more severe.

During 2002, the fourth straight year of nearly statewide drought conditions, some areas of Utah experienced record-low streamflows. Several record-low streamflows occurred in streams with records dating back to the 1900s. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) uses streamflow data from eight long-term streamflow-gaging stations for comparison of hydrologic conditions in Utah (fig. 1).

Publication Year 2003
Title Drought conditions in Utah during 1999-2002: A historical perspective
DOI 10.3133/fs03703
Authors Chris D. Wilkowske, David V. Allen, Jeff V. Phillips
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Fact Sheet
Series Number 037-03
Index ID fs03703
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Utah Water Science Center