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Great Salt Lake is rising in its feet.

Great Salt Lake is rising in its feet

After another year of record snow and rainfall, the Great Salt Lake is still swelling. As of April 1, the waters had crept up to 4,209.55 feet--2.2 feet greater than the value last year at this time and the highest level since 1878--and the spring melt is still to come. The historic high, reached in 1873, was 4,211.5 feet (SN: 3/17/84, p. 172). If the lake exceeds that level this year, it is not known how long it will stay that high or what the environmental impact will be, says geographer Paul A. Kay at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Kay recently organized a conference on the state of predictions for Salt Lake water levels. Scientists at the conference reached a consensus, primarily for the benefit of state planners, that the lake will probably not rise above 4,218 feet in the next 50 to 100 years because the climate probably won't get and stay wet enough to do that, says Kay.

If the lake were to exceed 4,218 feet, it would spill over into deserts to the west and southwest, an event that is thought to have occurred at least three times over the last 6,000 years. Though the lake level has fluctuated in the geologic past, says Kay, a lot more work is needed to understand the frequency and duration of such changes. And because of the limited historical data, researchers also cannot say whether or not the extremely wet weather of the last few years is really unusual. There is some hint that the high rainfall, in both summer and winter, is related to El Nino, but this link has not been firmly established, Kay says.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 20, 1985
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