When dividing a state into regions, most people pay attention to major geographical features - rivers, county lines and other political boundaries.
But weather patterns and climate don't pay much attention to those sorts of boundaries.Currently, Utah is divided into seven climatic divisions, which were determined by the National Weather Service in 1957. But in a recent issue of "Utah Science," published by the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station, Donald Jensen, director of the Utah Climate Center, reports that temperatures and precipitation levels within the allegedly homogeneous climate zones vary widely. That means records for each division may not be the most accurate reflection of the conditions people actually experience.
For example, the state's western division stretches from the Idaho border on the north to nearly St. George on the south.
"It is so vast that if you talk about drought severity in the western division, people in the south will laugh because they have had so much precipitation, while the people in the north will say we are not reporting how severely dry it really is," Jensen said.
Climate center staff members are using historic and current weather information from 14 data bases - including records kept by the Bureau of Land Management, the Soil Conservation Service, the National Weather Service and the Bureau of Reclamation - to redraw the divisions so they more accurately reflect Utah's varied climate.
Redefining the divisions will help climatologists provide Utahns better climate information about each part of the state, such as how long the average frost-free growing seasons are and when the most precipitation is likely.