U.S. Water News Online
SALT LAKE CITY -- The Great Salt Lake, already 14 feet
lower than it was in 1984, could start reversing a downward trend by
2006, says a scientist who based his prediction on temperature
variations in the north Atlantic Ocean.
Connely K. Baldwin, research engineer at the Utah Water Research
Laboratory at Utah State University, found that the volume of the
Great Salt Lake since 1850 has matched temperature swings more than
2,200 miles away in the north Atlantic. The colder the water there
gets, the more the Great Salt Lake fills up.
Baldwin says that factor influences lake levels just as much as El
Nino, the warming of an equatorial belt of Pacific Ocean water that
can bring more moisture to areas of the West.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says a
moderate El Nino is establishing itself after a five-year absence.
That development and Baldwin's findings could signal a gradual end
to the drought that has gripped much of the West for four years. It
has been especially harsh in southern Utah, suffering its driest
period in at least a half-century, according to other studies.
But before it makes a gradual recovery, the Great Salt Lake will
drop to its lowest level since the early 1960s, bottoming out in
2005, Baldwin said. His prediction stops in 2006 and doesn't show the
strength or duration of the recovery.
The lake, now at 4,197.7 feet above sea level, could drop under
his forecast to 4,194 feet by 2005.
Right now, the lake is 14 feet lower than during the so-called
flood years of 1984-87.
The lake rises and falls a minor amount each season, but over the
years can lose or gain substantially more. Because the lake is
shallow, a drop of a just a foot or two can put hundreds of acres of
shoreline above water and create more ``lake stink'' in Davis County.
The Great Salt Lake, covering a vast mountain basin with no
outlet, mirrors the climate around it and has dropped more than 7
feet since 1999 as the Western drought took hold.
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