City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

April 15, 2017

April 14th

Filed under: Weather — canopus56 @ 6:24 pm

Sky Wall

2:00 a.m. Under a waning gibbous moon, a towering line of clouds that runs north and south above the canyon reaches for the skies. To the west, clouds still stream in from the coast, but to the east of this sky wall, the air is clear. The sky wall itself moves north at a rapid pace. The cloud wall marks the end of a storm that came through the valley this afternoon and this evening, and although it reached eighty degrees in the afternoon, by seven in the evening, temperatures had dropped thirty degrees preceding by winds of fifty and sixty miles for per hour. The high winds rendered the air full of thick dust. This morning, the north-south cloud wall demarcates an unusual weather feature. The jet stream usually moves east-west across the valley or makes a gentle north-south S-shaped curve across the western United States. Today, a few hundred miles south, it has made a right-angle turn and now moves directly north-south over the canyon. This occurs one or twice a year, and the last that I can remember was last fall. Then the wall was reversed: clouds on the east and clear on the west, but the wall itself was more defined. Then and in this morning’s wall, clouds visibly race northward under the jet stream’s influence. The edges of wind-whipped streamers reflect iridescent moonlight. I finish an early morning walk under broken moonlight.

* * * *

In 2008, meteorologists Schafer of Lyndon State College and Steenburgh of the University of Utah analyzed 25 years of high-wind storm patterns in the Intermountain West, including along the Wasatch Front Mountain Range and over the canyon (Schafer and Steenburgh 2008). They found 948 strong cold fronts throughout the Intermountain West accompanied by high winds. These typically occur between April and June in the afternoons. In a typical scenario, a high-wind cold-front involves heating of expanses of the open valleys of west with an associated high system. A cold front sweeps in from the northwest, but its progress is stalled by the resistance of the mass of warm air. A north-south jet forms. Next, the cold front air overwhelms the warm air to the south and sweeps through the west and to the City with high winds (id). Another effect of these storms is dust. The high-winds coming from the north and west cross the Great Salt Lake salt desert and its dry lake bed plains to the south west. There the winds gather copious amounts of dust that deposit a thin layer of dust on everything on the valley floor and in the canyon.

* * * *

On April 14th, 2005, a Salt Lake Tribune news outdoors article notes that spring hiking in City Creek often involves muddy trails. On April 14th, 1918, a touring trip up City Creek is described (Salt Lake Herald). On April 14th, 1912, a petition from citizens proposed the creation of a park system for the city, including establishing a park at the canyon’s mouth, now Memory Grove (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 14th, 1904, the City Street Department considered the petition to widen City Creek Canyon Road where it intersects State Street (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 14th, 1898, Arbor Day, University and high school students planted trees at Pleasant Valley in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald). On April 14th, 1896, a paying gold vein at the Weihe claim was reported (Salt Lake Herald).

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