Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Winter 2010/11 Keeps on Giving

The incredible winter of 2010/11 gave so much to Utah skiers and just keeps on giving.

In addition to an estimated 800+ inch snow year at Alta, the runoff from our unbelievable snowpack has helped "restore" the Great Salt Lake and Sevier Lake.

From it's minimum elevation of about 4193.5 feet last November, the Great Salt Lake at Saltair Boat Harbor rose an incredible 5 feet to a maximum elevation of 4198.5 feet in July.

Source: USGS
The view this weekend toward Antelope Island from the Bonneville Shoreline Trail near North Salt Lake showed that Farmington Bay is actually covered with a thin lens of water!

Looking northwest toward Antelope Island and Farmington Bay
from the Bonneville Shoreline Trail
A larger lake does not necessarily mean we'll see more lake-effect this year, since that also depends on the weather that we get, but it won't hurt.

Further to the south, a thin lens of water has also collected in the Sevier Lake Bed.

The Sevier Lake Bed appears to be an important emission source for dust in northern Utah.  For example, check out this satellite image in which dust is identified as pink.

Source: NRL
Many of these dust plumes impact the Wasatch Mountains and contribute to the snirt (snow+dirt) that detracts from our spring skiing experiences.  Maybe this year, the Sevier won't be as active, which may help reduce how much dust loading we see in the snowpack in the spring.


  1. Comparing your Sevier Lake photo to one I took from the same location in the summer of 2003 I can see that it is distinctly different. In 2003 it did appear to have water from some vantage points, but that turned out to be a just a mirage. It's apparent that it does have actual water this year though... would be interesting to know how deep it is.

  2. No mirage as we were careful to make sure that wasn't the case. It would be good to know how deep it is.

  3. It seems like this could represent somewhat of a regional feedback loop:

    More snow -> less blowing dust -> snow remains longer -> runoff later -> less dust

    Probably just a stab in the dark, but it struck me as interesting.