Drought continues to threaten parts of Wyo
In February, Wyoming experienced below average temperatures, making it the 32nd coolest of 124 years, and above-average precipitation, as it was the 24th wettest of 124 years.
The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) map from March 13 shows conditions have improved slightly in northeast Wyoming.
However, abnormally dry conditions persist throughout all counties on the eastern boundary of the state, with the exception of Laramie County.
Abnormally dry conditions are also present in Converse, Platte, Carbon, Sweetwater, Uinta and Lincoln counties. Additionally, some areas of Carbon and Sweetwater counties continue to experience moderate drought conditions.
Looking at neighboring states, drought intensity in Colorado’s southern corners has increased to extreme. Northeastern Montana and much of western North and South Dakota continue to experience moderate to severe drought.
You can help inform the U.S. Drought Monitor by submitting conditions and impacts at droughtreporter.unl.edu/submitreport.
View the current USDM maps at weather.gov/riw/drought.
The snow water equivalent (SWE) throughout Wyoming ranges from 69 to 159 percent of normal according to the March 20 USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service SNOTEL report.
View the current SWE for your basin at wwa.colorado.edu/climatedashboard2.html.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) eight- to 14-day forecast for March 28 to April 3, which was made March 20, indicates a 40 to 50 percent probability of below normal temperatures throughout of the eastern two-thirds of Wyoming.
Normal precipitation is forecasted for the entire state over the same timeframe.
The forecast for April, which was made March 15, indicates equal chances of above, below or average temperatures for most of Wyoming. The precipitation forecast for the same timeframe is also for equal chances of above, below or average precipitation for much of the state.
That said, if you draw a line from the northwest corner of the state to the southern corner of Niobrara County there is a 33 percent probability for above-average precipitation for the area north of that line.
To view NOAA’s most recent forecasts visit and select a forecast at cpc.ncep.noaa.gov.
If you read last month’s “Connecting Ag to Climate” column, you might recall I mentioned that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Looking at current conditions and forecasts, the drought wheel continues to squeak in areas of the state.
As we move into April, keep a close eye on precipitation, which is key for forage production on native rangelands. Generally speaking, precipitation in April through May is a good indicator of forage production for cool-season dominated rangelands. For pastures with a mix of cool and warm-season grasses, precipitation in May is key.
Consider discussing the following questions with your team.
How much forage carryover do we have, and how much are we willing to feed this year, if needed?
What is the status of soil moisture in your area? Monitor soil moisture throughout this spring to have some idea of potential forage or dryland crop production.
What is the precipitation forecast and its probability for April and beyond? What does this tell you about potential yield?
The above questions may help you start thinking through tough decisions, like whether it would be more economical to maintain, reduce or expand your herd or planted acres during this year’s growing season. Consider writing down “target” dates or conditions for making difficult decisions.
Explore the University of Wyoming’s bulletins about drought at wyoextension.org/publications. Then, search “drought.”
Remember to plan, monitor, know your alternatives and adapt as needed.
This article was written by UW Extension, WAFERx and USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub Regional Extension Program Coordinator Windy Kelley. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-766-2205. The column was reviewed by Wyoming Water Resources Data System Deputy Director Tony Bergantino and Justin Derner of USDA Agricultural Research Service. Dannelle Peck of USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub also reviewed the article.