Cooling and Wet Utah

Lake Mead October 2010 with "bathtub ring" showing low water level

Lake Mead October 2010 with "bathtub ring" showing low water level

Original Image

OK, the California wet and stormy with loads of mountain snow have been getting all the news. But earlier we talked about the historical record that showed cold in the USA West also meant a rise in lake levels and a general increase in wetness. (Contrary to other parts of the world where cold means dry due to decreased evaporation and lessened water capacity in cold dry air).

So for this storm series, is there any evidence that this type of action is happening?

Looks like Las Vegas is getting some rain. (Images from StormPredator software):

LasVegas Total Precip 20 Dec 2010

LasVegas Total Precip 20 Dec 2010

Red 5 inches, Yellow 1.5 inches, Green Lt to Drk 0.7, 1, 1.2 inches, Blue Lt to Drk Trace, 0.2, 0.5 inches. That grey sprawling spidery lake to the right (east) of Las Vegas is Lake Mead. If you look at the picture up top, you can see just how rocky the land is above the lake. Click on the picture for a larger image.

Realize that the mountains around Las Vegas are basically hard rock. It’s a dead dry desert in most parts. Some bits have some cactus, but this is not a place with a lot of ground cover to absorb runoff. Modest rains can flood Las Vegas.

Moving along the storm track toward Salt Lake City, this is the image from Cedar City, Utah. It’s just North of the Grand Canyon and in the drainage basin for Lake Mead.

Cedar City Ut Total Precip 20 Dec 2010

Cedar City Ut Total Precip 20 Dec 2010

Now Blue lt to drk is Trace, 0.1, 0.2 inch. Green lt to drk is 0.5, 0.7, 1.0 inch. Yellow 1.5, dirty Yellow 2.0 and Orange is 2.5 inch. Dark Red is 4 inches.

So raining already, but not as hard as Las Vegas at the moment. In Salt Lake City, the storm does not show significant rain yet ( It looks like the clouds have just gotten there). This image is “Base Reflectivity” and shows the clouds rolling in. What Los Angeles has now will follow a track through Las Vegas to Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City, Utah, Base Reflectivity 20 Dec 2010

Salt Lake City, Utah, Base Reflectivity 20 Dec 2010

What’s happening in Los Angeles? Rain. In this image, light green is 1 inch. Orange is 4 inches, and Red from Lt to Drk is 5 inch, 6 inch, 8 inches of rain.

Los Angeles Total Precip 20 Dec 2010

Los Angeles Total Precip 20 Dec 2010

And just a reminder: Obstacles can block the radar view (so you get a ‘cut off line’ if a metal building or mountain is in the way) and radar fades with distance. That means you see more rain up close where at the fringes you miss some as reflectivity drops off.

Yeah, I’d say we’ve got “Wet in the West”.


Flooding Risk for Interior West
By Alex Sosnowski, Expert Senior Meteorologist
Dec 20, 2010; 4:40 PM ET

While the mountains from the Sierra Nevada to the central Rockies will steal the show with snow this week, flooding problems over the interior West will increase.

The same series of storms bringing the snow are also bringing heavy rain.

Well, that sure does sound like it. “Flooding problems over the interior West”. So we’re in that pattern. Wet in the West means global cooling, and we’ve got a very wet west…

Away from the problems in California, enough rain (and melting snow) to cause flooding problems will stretch from southern Nevada and northwestern Arizona to central Utah and the valley of western Colorado the next few days.

Part of this area may easily receive two- to three-months of rain in as many days, hence the concern of flooding. Additional rainfall of 2 to 4 inches may fall in this area.

Well. I’d make that a “yes”. Maybe even a “Hell Yes!”.

To me that say’s is likely going to be a very good time to start watching those western lakes that were “Drying up due to Global Warming” and potentially call some folks on the carpet about that scare mongering.

Cities and towns that may experience flooding problems include Las Vegas, St. George, Utah, and Grand Junction, Colo. Concerns around Las Vegas would be of flash or urban in nature.

According to Meteorologist John Feerick, the Virgin River in southwestern Utah is already flood stage and more rain and runoff are coming.

Well, there’s your shopping list of places to watch. Pick an area, find some interesting lakes. Get the historical rainfall, inflow, lake level, whatever data; then start watching. Every foot of lake rise is that much more testimonial for a rapidly cooling Western USA. “Dig Here!” signs all over the place.

They then go on to talk about how this can be good for some places that have had the reservoirs run down in the last years (during the hot dry phase of the Western USA / PDO cycle).

This picture shows Lake Mead. The white areas surrounding the shoreline indicate where the lake level once was. The areas are white due to calcium deposits made visible by the shrinking water levels.


Recall that water levels in Lake Mead have been falling for decades due to long-term drought and increased tapping from city and agricultural interests.

Andrews added, “This storm alone will not fill all reservoirs to capacity, including Mead.”

So we’ve got our coincident indicator of “Warming”, the drought and lower lake levels in Lake Mead and others in the area. And we’ve got our “hum dinger” storm dumping months of rain in days. As this rainy year unfolds, we ought to see the drought ended, the minor lakes filling fast, and the major lakes begin a slow multiyear climb.

Easily monitored and easily tested hypothesis. Simple and direct cross check on the assertion that we’ve left a hot phase behind and entered a cooling / cold phase.

If anyone knows of an easy way to monitory some key lakes out there, this would be a good time to let it be known. Otherwise I’m going to be spending a lot of time in “Rediscovered Country”. ;-)

Some History

This site:

Has some interesting historical notes. Including that the lowest level in the lake was in 1965 following a drought in the late 1950s. It also includes a couple of interesting graphs of lake level.

Lake Mead level 1939 to 2003

Lake Mead level 1939 to 2003

and this ‘close up’ on recent times:

Lake Mead level 1993 to 2003

Lake Mead level 1993 to 2003

To my eye this looks like there’s a few year time lag on the change of lake level. Not surprising when you figure that the rains have to fall for a while to enter the ground and then after they stop it takes a while for the ground water flows to slow and stop. Might have to wait a couple of years before we see a lot of lake level rise…

Subscribe to feed


About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in AGW Science and Background and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Cooling and Wet Utah

  1. xyzlatin says:

    Australia awash too. Floods everywhere, snow in summer this week in Alps.

  2. David says:

    For calif lake levels and stream flow this is the site I prefer with real time graphs.

  3. David says:

    The bottom left has a clikable map for USGS records in every state.

  4. Chuckles says:

    All looks a bit like (I think) Michener’s description of the rainfall in Lubbock – ’17 inches a year, and you want to be there the afternoon it falls…’

  5. PhilJourdan says:

    Another thing to remember about deserts as well – when it rains on your “non-desert” back yard, the ground can soak up some of the rain. Several inches in fact if it does not come all in 1 hour and the ground is dry.

    But the top soil of a desert has all been blown away, leaving basically a clay surface that does not soak up rain (makes create ceramics though). So a little rain usually means run off.

  6. Adrian Vance says:

    In a period of cooling there will be more rain, but when the atmosphere settles at a lower temperature it will be able to carry less moisture and will be drier. Antarctica is a virtual desert but for the storms that come from the warmer south.

    For conservative thought, science and humor see:… “The Two Minute Conservative” free for radio/TV talk show hosts, opinion page editors and dinner table conversationalists. Also on Kindle

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @Adrian Vance:

    Yeah, somehow we’ve got to align the first derivative of temperature with the precipitation. Right now I just look at the water graphs and mentally shift the “cold ’50s-70s” into a “cooling ’40s-60s’, but the details matter. So the lowest level ever in The Great Salt Lake was something like 1968. It was cold then, and into the mid ’70s. But the COOLING had been from about 1934 to about what, ’63 ? Then we hit “cold but not cooling” and things just dried up.

    So there are some timing and alignment details to work out.


    I think I’ve noticed this patern where cold water is offshore from warm land. The “Mediteranean Climate”. We don’t have hot oceans to raise the water content, so it’s not very high to begin with (and doesn’t cool much in a cooling trend) BUT the air temps on land plunge, so we wring more water out of that (already somewhat cool) air off the cool ocean.

    Basically, the “normal” mode is places like Florida, where more heat means more rain. Hurricanes in Summer. Dry in winter. BUT when you don’t have hot water off shore, you get the California / Chile pattern. It rains when the AIR is cold enough to precipitate something. So the pattern inverts. Rain in the cold, dry in the hot.

    So is the wet part of Australia a “California / Chile” pattern with cooler waters off shore and land temps plunging?


    Thanks for the pointer. Now I’ve got some neat stream flow graphs going into a posting ;-)


    I’ve been in Texas when that happens. “Religious Experience” almost captures the effect. In “Hill Country” you want to look at the rocks uphill from your building site and ask what happens if a foot of rain lands on it… in 12 minutes… Best build near the top ;-)


    True, but look at the picture up top. Most of the hills are just hard rock. What “soil” there was is down in the washes and lake bottoms… So it’s not just the clay arroyo bottom, it’s the hard rock collection basin too…

    Thus the “flash flood” problem that has a 10 foot wall of water come running down a dry wash where people decided to camp on the nice flat dirt…

  8. George says:

    There are all sorts of things that skew historical lake levels. One is the increased release of water from lakes for “stream bed restoration” and other habitat maintenance that hasn’t happened in the past but has been going on recently.

    This water vapor picture tells the story:

    That pattern is pretty much what I would expect to see during “ice age” conditions where it has been suggested that the jet stream did just exactly what it is doing now bring much more rain/snow into the great basin region.

    Note that a snow covered mountain has much more impact on albedo in Nevada or Arizona than one does in the Cascades.

  9. Keith Hill says:

    Christmas greetings from Tasmania, Australia to E.M and all contributors.

    Our first official day of summer brought us very cool temps with snow flurries on Mt.Wellington and good snowfalls in the Victorian highlands. This week, a West Australian town had it’s yearly rainfall in one day, Queensland and other parts of the East Coast continue to be deluged with rain.

    As our Green-controlled Prime Minister Julia Gillard rushes Australia towards a job- and industry-destroying carbon tax she promised pre-election would not be introduced, many people are facing poverty and even loss of homes under the weight of rapidly increasing power and water charges with the costs of the so-called energy “Greening” of Australia already factored in and being passed on.

    On the subject of carpeting “scaremongers”, as Europe experiences its reported coldest winter for centuries, our MSM pseudo-journalists continue to allow AGW alarmists like Green Party Deputy-Leader Christine Milne to make unchallenged statements such as her most recent “we are on track for a 4 degree C increase in ‘global average’ temperature over the next two decades”! She and her party leader Bob Brown are the two leading “Chicken Littles” in Australia with their favourite phrase being “catastrophic global warming” – man-made of course!
    Unfortunately, we hardly have any true journalists in Australia. Most just give their opinion instead of reporting!

    In nearly eight decades on this planet and having seen and lived through many previous outrageous scare and rabble-raising events, I can only recall one other which matches the promotion of the AGW “Big Lie” accompanied by the brainwashing and bullying techniques necessary to give it momentum. That was the propaganda campaign of Dr.Goebbels under Hitler.

    Even in my wildest dreams, I would never have imagined that in 2010 so many gullible people could be brainwashed into believing that Man could control the climate, let alone by putting a tax on an element absolutely essential to life!

    I apologise for inflicting my self-evident frustration on other posters, but in doing so I would also like to thank you and all those who have contributed this year to what I regard as one of the most diverse, interesting and stimulating sites on the web. You have all helped me keep my sanity and hope in an increasingly puzzling world. May you and yours enjoy the happiest and brightest New Year possible.

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    @Keith Hill:

    Thanks for the report from Down Under! And I hope that the coming year will be as interesting as the last.

    The tide of public opinion is turning, even if very slowly. We have the weather to thank for that. Now it’s time to “play out the clock” and wait for the cold to “focus the mind”.

    Yeah, I’ve been very dismayed at how well the Green Propaganda Machine has worked. It will become a landmark study for future propagandists (and future writers about Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds).

    OTOH, it’s pretty clear that ever since the POTUS got laughed at when he mentioned Global Warming in his State of the Union Address, they have been fighing more ‘rear guard’ actions. This will eventually turn to a retreat.

    Big waste of time, energy, money, etc. but things will get turned around. Snow in summer Australia and a frozen UK will be hard to white wash. No Forida Orange Juice with breakfast, due to hard freeze, will be hard to ignore.

    Best of luck!

Comments are closed.