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August Climate Eases Drought; Grows Record Tomato

Dale Thurber

Most of Utah continues to struggle with drought. But an especially cool and rainy August has eased the dryness and triggered other consequences, too, including a monster tomato.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Seaman’s put some numbers to the climate trends that Utahns have been living firsthand this August.

“The late part of July through early August has been very wet,” Seaman says. “A case in point, here in Salt Lake City, through August 26th, we’ve had 1.77 inches officially here at the Salt Lake International Airport. That’s almost three times as much as normal.”

And it was unusually cool, too.

“With the moisture and cloud cover, its also kept temperatures quite a bit cooler than normal,” he added. “Thus far, through the 26th of August, the average high temperature in Salt Lake has been 86.8 degrees. So we’re running about 4 degrees below normal.”

Seaman says we can thank the summer monsoon for all those cool nights and thunderstorms. It’s delivered flash floods in Zion National Park in southern Utah and urban flooding in the northern Utah community of Riverdale.

Monsoon rains swamped the Bonneville Salt Flats, causing Speed Week to be cancelled. And it prompted weather officials to scrub patches of eastern Utah completely off the nation’s official drought map.

Credit Courtesy: / Dale Thurber
Dale Thurber
Here's the monster tomato being officially measured at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

  Dale Thurber grows giant tomatoes in West Valley City, and the weather has helped him break the state record. Cooler weather gives his tomatoes more time to reach full size.

“It is pretty exciting,” Thurber says. “For growing large tomatoes, that extra 10 to 12 to 14 days makes a big difference. The cooler temperature makes a huge difference.”

Last summer, the hottest on record in Salt Lake City, just one of Thurber’s 200 giant tomatoes reached 2 pounds. This summer he has a couple dozen. And some are 3 pounds so far, with a few more weeks of growing to go.

The National Weather Service expects a relatively cool, mostly sunny holiday weekend.

Postscript: Thurber said the record-breaking 3.75-pound tomato turned out to be tasty, too.

"We ate it within an hour" of the official weighing at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, he reports. "It was actually very good."

He served it on homemade bread, salted and dressed with Miracle Whip and lettuce.

"Five people," he says, "couldn't eat it all."

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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