Wyo Weather: Current Conditions and Early Forecasts
USDA’s Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub (NPRCH) has partnered with the University of Wyoming Extension (UWE) to integrate more weather and climate information into Extension programming and to distribute the information to agricultural producers.
UWE is initiating a monthly article in the Wyoming Livestock Roundup to share the current weather conditions and forecasts. We hope you will enjoy this addition. Please let us know what information was useful, additional information you would like to read and if there is particular weather information you want during a specific time of year. We’ll do our best to respond to the input we receive.
Review and current conditions
Overall, Wyoming experienced near average temperatures and precipitation throughout the state in December. However, parts of southwest and southeast Wyoming experienced much above average precipitation while the Big Horn Basin and other areas, including Sublette and Sweetwater counties, were much below.
The Jan. 19 U.S. Drought Monitor map shows moderate drought conditions in the Bighorn Basin and the Drought Outlook through April indicates that this will persist. Current abnormally dry conditions classified around this area are predicted to subside with later winter and early spring precipitation providing recovery.
The Snow Water Equivalent varied widely throughout Wyoming on the Jan. 25 USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) SNOTEL report. The only basins with 90 to 109 percent of normal are the Snake, Madison, Upper Bear, Lower Green, Little Snake and the Upper and Lower North Platte. The rest of the state is at 89 percent or less of normal, with Sweetwater, Big Horn Basin, Powder and Tongue all 69 percent or less of normal.
NRCS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released the first spring and summer stream flow forecast on Jan. 1. The forecast suggests much of the Upper and Lower Green River will be 70 to 89 percent of normal while the Tongue, Big Horn Basin and Powder Basins will be 50 to 69 percent of normal. The Wind Basin is variable, with the northwestern corner reaching 90 to 109 percent of average and the southwestern corner at 25 to 49 percent of normal. It should be noted that it’s still early in the season, so these percentages are expected to change. February to April reports will give better indications of the spring snowpack.
As of Jan. 25, NOAA projected all of Wyoming will experience below normal temperatures Feb. 2-8 with the odds the highest for the southern into central areas of Wyoming. It is anticipated that all of Wyoming will experience greater than normal amounts of precipitation during the same timeframe.
As of Jan. 21, the odds favor above normal temperatures throughout the state of Wyoming for the month of February with the northern quarter of the state having the most likely chance of above normal temperatures. The precipitation forecast divides the state almost diagonally from the northeast corner to the southwest corner. The area within the top half of the diagonal is expected to be dryer than normal while the bottom part of the diagonal is less certain with equal chances of receiving above, below or normal precipitation.
The February through April temperature outlook for much of Wyoming aligns with what is expected in our state during an El Niño, which is above normal temperatures. That said, the very southern swath of Wyoming has an equal chance of above, below or normal temperatures. The three-month precipitation forecast, again, divides the state diagonally, this time from the southwest corner to about the southern end of Crook County. The bottom part of the diagonal is expected to receive above normal precipitation while the top half of the diagonal is less certain with equal chances of above, below, or normal precipitation.
April to June seasonal outlooks suggest an increased probability of warmer temperatures for the entire state and increased probability of precipitation for the southern half.
The above said, it doesn’t mean we won’t experience extreme cold snaps. Wyomingites should be prepared by following the latest forecasts as calving begins and they contemplate planting crops. The current conditions in the Big Horn Basin and the forecast suggest we should be thinking about the potential of drought conditions during the coming growing season. However, this will become clearer during the coming months.
Do you have a Drought Contingency Plan? It’s never too late or too early to start planning. As we all know, it’s not a matter of if, but when, drought will occur. Do you want help thinking through what should be included in your drought plan? If so, contact your local USDA NRCS or UWE office.
Windy Kelley is the University of Wyoming Extension and USDA Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub Program Coordinator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-766-2205 for more information.