Jim Steenburgh

Professor - Atmospheric Sciences

University of Utah


Jim Steenburgh is professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah. An avid "three sport" skier (nordic, alpine, backcountry), he is the creator of the popular blog Wasatch Weather Weenies, author of Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth, and a leading authority on mountain weather and lake-effect snowstorms.

Title: The Great Salt Lake Effect: Mechanisms and Contributions to Wasatch Snow

Thursday, May 10th, 9:15 AM

Abstract: Conventional wisdom often suggests that the lake effect is due to cold air picking up moisture from the lake and that it is of great importance for snowfall in the Wasatch Mountains.  In reality, the mechanisms driving lake-effect are multifaceted, vary from case to case, and can include a mixture of lake- and terrain-related processes.  In addition, recent studies suggest that lake-effect periods contribute less than 10% of the average cool-season precipitation in the Wasatch and Oquirrh Ranges, although there is considerable variability from year to year and large lake-effect storms during October and November can be important for building a low-elevation snowpack.   This presentation provides a review of these results and their implications, including perspectives on what a shrinking Great Salt Lake may mean for the Greatest Snow on Earth in a warming climate.  


Why We Care

  • Several years ago I was enchanted by Alfred Lambourne’s romanticized paintings of the Great Salt Lake, so began my own quest to explore its islands and capture what I saw in quick, plein air, oil sketches.

    I made many day-trips to Black Rock and spent a significant amount of time camping on Stansbury and Antelope Islands, climbing their trails and swimming in their bays. My paintings became my diary as I observed the changing light and shadow on the rocks and water. The brine flies and gnats often hovered over my shoulder anxious to immortalize themselves in the sticky colorful oil paint.

    Kirk Henrichsen, Alfred Lambourne Prize Participant