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ALDER HEDGES ON HOT-DRY SUMMER FORECAST

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Utah may be headed for near normal temperatures and precipitation this summer.

William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge of the Salt Lake office of the National Weather Service, says he hopes near or above average amounts of precipitation will fall on Utah during the next three months. But he says it's difficult to say for sure.Alder's statements were in response to a Scripps Howard News Service story last week that said unusually hot weather is anticipated in all or parts of Utah, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North and South Dakota and Wyoming.

"It's already very hot in the West. Summer arrived early there, and the West will remain hotter than normal throughout the summer," the story quoted Donald Gilman, long-range meteorologist from the Washington, D.C., office of the National Weather Service, as saying.

The Scripps Howard story said that "if the service's forecasters are correct, most of the country won't have a crop-searing drought this summer, although it's going to be hotter than normal in the West and the South."

Alder said last summer was one of the hottest and driest on record in Utah. "Hopefully, we won't have a repeat of that. Hopefully, we will have a wetter summer this year. Last summer (June through August) was the hottest and the second driest in 115 years in the Salt Lake Valley."

Alder said Gillman looks at a lot of things to make a long-range forecast, for which there's much demand.

"But in the weather service we really don't have the skill to make an accurate forecast . . . we have no weather charts that go much beyond a week or 10 days," Alder said.

During May, the average high temperature at the Salt Lake International Airport was 73 degrees, compared with a 72.4 normal reading. At the same weather station, precipitation totaled 1.83 inches for May or 124 percent of the normal 1.47 inches.

"I'm in hopes we have a somewhat near normal regime this summer for precipitation. We are sort of overdue. We haven't had one for a while," Alder said.

While the Wasatch Front had fairly good amounts of precipitation during May, the southern, eastern and some other parts of the state are very dry.

Alder and other meteorologists, hydrologists and others are keeping close tabs on the weather because intermittent rainstorms are the answer to adequate water supplies, agricultural and other needs of the state.