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Below-normal temperatures, above normal precip to come

Written by Windy Kelley

Wyoming experienced much-above average temperatures January to December 2017, with the year being the seventh warmest of 123 years, and above average precipitation, earning it the title of 14th wettest year. Overall, Wyoming was warmer than average, with the month as the 21st of 123 years, and near-average precipitation.

The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) map from Jan. 16 shows abnormally dry conditions throughout the eastern counties of the state – including moderate drought conditions in Crook and Campbell counties. The abnormally dry conditions expand west into southeastern Natrona and northern Albany counties.

Abnormally dry conditions are also present in Uinta, Lincoln, Sweetwater and Carbon counties. Areas of the latter two counties are experiencing moderate drought conditions. 

Drought conditions continue to persist in adjacent states including the majority of Nebraska, Colorado, and North and South Dakota. Additionally, drought conditions continue to persist throughout much of Montana.

View the current USDM maps at weather.gov/riw/drought.

The snow water equivalent (SWE) throughout Wyoming ranges from 76 to 155 percent of normal, according to the Jan. 23 USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) SNOTEL report.

What’s the current SWE for your basin? Visit Western Water Assessment’s Climate Dashboard at wwa.colorado.edu/climatedashboard2.html and look for “Current Basin Snowpack as % Median,” which is updated daily.

Forecasts

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) eight- to 14-day forecast for Jan. 30 to Feb. 5 was made Jan. 22 and indicates a 33 to 40 percent probability of below normal temperature throughout all of Wyoming.

The precipitation forecast for the same timeframe is above normal, also at a 33 to 40 percent probability, for the entire state – except for the far southwest where the forecast has equal chances for above, below or normal precipitation.

To view the most current eight- to 14-day forecast, visit cpc.ncep.noaa.gov and select “8-14 Day Outlook.

La Niña update

As of early January, the weak La Niña in the Pacific Ocean is expected to continue.

However, the probability of La Niña continues to decrease through the winter as we move into spring, when it is expected atmospheric conditions will become more neutral.

To learn more about La Niñas and the potential impacts, visit goo.gl/FhA1Rz.

Ag considerations

We may be tempted to be complacent and not fret about the cold with the mild temperatures Wyoming experienced in December and early January. However, looking at the eight- to 14-day forecast, it is important to monitor the forecast and be proactive with management decisions and actions.

This is especially true as we see calves dropping in areas of the state. Ensure they are greeted and positioned to successfully start their lives.

How? Consider monitoring your herd, moving cows closer to home and providing additional protection or shelter from the elements. Providing protection from the elements, such as wind chill, can mitigate potential health issues of the cows and calves plus better help the cows rebound and maintain their body condition post-birth.

One featured resource worth revisiting comes from Rick Rasby at the University of Nebraska, who authored the publication “Preparing the Cowherd for Cold Weather.” This document can be found at newsroom.unl.edu/announce/beef/5899/34000.

Mark your calendars

Also of note, there are several upcoming events that may be of interest to Wyoming ranchers.

On Feb. 7-8, Fremont County Farm and Ranch Days will be held in Riverton. This year’s featured lunch speakers are Burke Teichert, who will speak on profitable ranching, and Don Day, who will provide an outlook on weather.

To learn more about Farm and Ranch Days, visit goo.gl/anzpq4.

In Worland on Feb. 14-15, WESTI Ag Days will feature keynote speaker Trent Loos, who will talk about bridging the gap between rural producers and urban consumers. Other topics include communicating with consumers about genetically modified organisms in the sugar industry; USDA programs including the Livestock Disaster Programs; internet based weather, climate and drought tools; and cover crop selection resources and research including grazing mixes.

To learn more about WESTI Ag Days, visit goo.gl/snKLRK.

Remember to plan, monitor, know your alternatives and adapt as needed.

This article was written by UW Extension and USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub Regional Extension Program Coordinator Windy Kelley. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 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.