OGDEN -- NOAA predicts a drought-free spring for Northern Utah's Wasatch Front.
But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in a chart released Thursday, projects that most of central Utah will have drought that persists or intensifies and that, for Southern Utah, a drought is likely to develop.
But don't feel too smug if you fall just barely on the damper side of the line.
"They have to draw the dividing lines somewhere," said Robert Gillies, director of the Utah Climate Center at Utah State University.
"It's a bit subjective. Someone else might put the line higher, so we would fall in the drought area. It's not an exact science."
The spring map has good news for much of the country. Most northern states and much of the Midwest are expected to avoid drought conditions this spring.
"The bottom line is that it's extremely difficult to do a long-term forecast," Gillies said.
"And Utah and the Intermountain West are some of the harder areas to predict. The National Weather Service predicted we would have a wet winter because of El Nino/La Nina, like last year, and it didn't happen."
El Nino and La Nina are oscillating patterns of warming and cooling in the western Pacific Ocean that affect air pressure and weather.
The warming and cooling patterns of the western Pacific is just one factor, among a multitude, that determines weather and climate in the Mountain West, Gillies said.
Weather for the state of Washington is easy to predict, he said, because it is right on the ocean.
Utah is farther inland, so fronts have more opportunity to dissipate or change direction slightly, based on other atmospheric factors. Utah's mountainous topography also plays a role in localized weather forecasts, he said.
Gillies said his larger concern for Northern Utah is how fast the mountain snow melts.
"Snowpack is very, very important for our water resources," he said. "The way it melts off in the spring is important. If it melts too fast, it runs over the reservoir and creates overflow problems.
"If it melts at a normal rate, it percolates into the ground, and that's what we want, because groundwater is an important source of water for us year-round."
Gillies said he believes Utah is headed into a dry cycle.
"There are certain guidelines that indicate we are starting to move into a dry period, compared to a wet period, over the next five or six years," he said.
"After that, we'd go back into a wet period. That's based on certain oscillations out there in the western Pacific.
"But we still have a lot to learn about cycles, research-wise."
Gillies will be among those speaking at Utah State University's Spring Runoff Conference, April 3 and 4.