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“Looking out beyond February, it’s a little more challenging, and we get more general with our predictions,” says National Weather Service (NWS) Team Cheyenne Warning Coordination Meteorologist Chad Hahn.

As blustery conditions hit Wyoming and producers plan for the upcoming year, Hahn and NWS Team Riverton Meteorologist David Lipson provide the weather outlook, as well as tips for preparing for winter and spring storms.

Prediction tools

When making weather predictions beyond two weeks, temperatures measured over the Pacific Ocean are used, says Lipson.

“Usually when we have cool temperatures, we will measure La Niña activity versus an El Niño,” continues Lipson.

Hahn explains that weather patterns over the Pacific Ocean influence weather patterns throughout the world.

“We are currently in a weak La Niña pattern. La Niña is when cooler temperatures are observed across the tropical Pacific Ocean that cause changes in the weather pattern downstream, which is what we are seeing here in Wyoming,” says Hahn.

Coming weeks

Following substantial winter storms with below average temperatures, Wyomingites can expect drier and continued cold weather through the beginning of the year.

As the new year starts, the state may see an increase in precipitation.

“The long story short is, the next week is going to be dry, and then, as we get into the first part of next year, it looks like we’ll have above normal precipitation,” explains Hahn.

Coming months

Temperature trends will likely be more normal through the first three months of 2017.

Winter storms and precipitation will also continue to occur, says Hahn.

“Looking out to January, February and March, the biggest thing that we can point to is a continued active pattern in the central and western part of the state,” explains Hahn.

“Similar to what we’ve been seeing in recent weeks with the continual snow across the western mountains, these trends will likely continue through the first part of the new year. This weather pattern may spread into central Wyoming, as well,” Hahn continues.

In the first three months of 2017, Wyoming may see normal precipitation with a possibility of above normal temperatures, explains Lipson.

“Generally speaking, there is expected to be normal amounts of precipitation and a 30 to 40 percent chance of above normal temperatures based on a weak La Niña,” says Lipson.

“We’ll probably trend back to more normal temperatures after the first three months of 2017,” continues Hahn.

Unclear spring

Typically, the snowiest months of the year for Wyoming are March and April, comments Hahn.

However, as the La Niña is weak, it is difficult to make long-term predictions.

“The La Niña pattern this go-around is fairly weak, which tends to be less indicative of what’s going to occur. We feel more confident this isn’t a strong El Niño or La Niña pattern,” says Hahn.

Currently, weather models are predicting that weather patterns would be more neutral, or normal.

“What we do feel is the overall likelihood will trend toward more normal conditions, for the upcoming year,” continues Hahn.

Preparing

“We’ve seen these cold snaps already this year where we’ve been dealing with the cold and the precipitation with our livestock,” says Hahn.

It is important for producers to stay informed about upcoming weather situations and to be able to take appropriate actions to provide shelter.

“The cold snaps and snowy weather are going to continue through the first part of next year. That’s the most immediate hazard that we’re concerned about when it comes to livestock,” continues Hahn.

Many resources are available to stay updated with local weather predictions from the National Weather Service.

“There’s a whole slew of information on our website at weather.gov for producers to get weather information,” continues Hahn.

He also notes that the Cheyenne and Riverton NWS offices are staffed around the clock and are available to visit with producers on the phone or via social media. 

“Producers can get weather information any time of the day,” says Hahn. “If they need more specifics when that 30 percent chance of snow isn’t enough for them, we can provide additional details on the phone and on social media, as well.”

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Wyoming experienced its 37th warmest September in the 122 years data have been collected. Higher nighttime temperatures drove the overall warmth for the month instead of daytime temperatures. The state also experienced its 15th wettest September in the last 122 years. On a more local scale, Sheridan, Johnson, and northern Campbell counties experienced their fourth wettest September on record.

The U.S. Drought Monitor map, released on Oct. 20, shows conditions have continued to improve in areas of Wyoming. However, moderate drought persists throughout parts of Crook, Weston, Campbell, Niobrara and Park counties. Some areas of Campbell, Crook and Weston counties are still experiencing severe drought.

Many other counties in Wyoming continue to experience abnormally dry conditions, which has expanded in Carbon County.

To view the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map, which is updated weekly, visit weather.gov/riw/drought.

The Seasonal Drought Outlook for Oct. 20 to Jan. 31, 2017 shows drought conditions are expected to improve everywhere except in areas of Crook, Weston and Campbell counties, which are currently experiencing severe drought. Conditions in these areas are likely to remain but improve.

Monthly and seasonal forecasts

As of Oct. 20, all of Wyoming has a greater probability – greater than 30 percent – to experience above normal temperatures in November. The precipitation signal for the northern half of the state indicates above normal precipitation, with a probability of 33 percent, for November. The precipitation signal for the southern half of Wyoming is less clear, with equal chances of above, below or normal.

The seasonal November through January outlook for Wyoming shows a 40 to 50 percent probability of above normal temperatures throughout Wyoming, except for the northern quarter to half of the state, where there is an equal chance for above, below or normal temperatures.

The seasonal precipitation outlook for Wyoming shows a 40 percent probability of above normal precipitation for the entire state, except for the southeast and southwest corners of the state, where there is an equal chance of above, below or normal precipitation.

Several fires are still considered to be active in Wyoming. However, their activity is now minimal, and the recent precipitation, both snow and rain, has been a great help.

Ag considerations

As mentioned before, the seasonal forecast for November through January shows a 40 percent probability that much of the state could receive above normal precipitation. This information could help you assess available feed when making decisions about when to cull cows.

Should you sell them now, when prices tend to be low, or carry them over to a later date, when prices might be higher? Keep in mind that Wyoming receives most of its snow later in the winter. If winter precipitation is above normal, will you have enough feed to get those culls through the winter, and will they be in acceptable shape? Or will you spend so much on extra feed that it completely offsets the higher cull price you receive?

This article was written by UW Extension and  USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub Regional Extension Program Coordinator Windy Kelley and reviewed by Wyoming Water Resources Data System Deputy Director Tony Bergantino and Justin Derner of USDA Agricultural Research Service.

Fremont County – Flooding in Fremont County last week was due to record rainfall in the area, and more flooding is possible this spring.

The two-day rainfall in Lander on May 6-7 was the third wettest consecutive two-day period on record. The second wettest was recorded in May of 1924, and the most precipitation in Lander over a two-day period occurred in April of 1895.

“Lander also set the daily record for rainfall on May 7,” adds Charles Baker, National Weather Service meteorologist in Riverton.

The area above Fort Washakie on the North Fork of the Little Wind River received 6.88 inches of precipitation over two days, and although there are no long-term records for that area, it is likely a record volume.

Swollen banks

“This event was interesting in the fact that it significantly flooded the Little Popo Agie and its tributary Twin Creek. The Middle Fork of the Popo Agie that goes through Sinks Canyon and Lander, while it rose, did not do any significant flooding in the city of Lander,” Baker explains.

The majority of flooding in the Lander area occurred on the northwest side of town where the North Fork of the Popo Agie, Baldwin and Squaw Creek waters merge.

“We had flooding on the Little Wind River and on the Little Popo Agie going through Hudson. Also, the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie and the Little Popo Agie meet on the northwest side of Hudson and flow into the Little Wind, so that also helped increase the flooding at Arapaho, through southern Riverton,” he continues.

The Big Wind River coming out of Togwotee Pass, through Dubois and Crowheart didn’t experience flooding on May 7-8, however the soils in those drainages have become saturated and could be potential flood zones if precipitation continues in the coming weeks.

Spring runoff

“We haven’t even seen the high point of our flooding. This flood was almost all rain-caused, and we haven’t even hit the snowmelt runoff yet,” comments Alex Malcolm of University of Wyoming Extension in Fremont County.

The snowline for last week’s storm was at about 8,000 feet of elevation, and snowpack increased over the two days of precipitation.

“On the east slope of the Wind River Range, the snowpack is similar to this time of year in 2010 when we had significant flooding due to snowmelt,” remarks Baker, adding that snowpack in the Wind River Basin is currently at about 140 to 150 percent of normal for this time of year.

Snowmelt runoff usually occurs through the first half of June, and additional precipitation is forecast before that time this year.

“If people had flooding in 2010 or flooding in the Wind River Basin over the last decade, they should look and see what’s changed. Have conditions improved? If they are the same, people should take action,” he comments.

Planning for more water

Building large structures or levees to barricade waters is not likely possible in time for this spring’s runoff, but residents in low-lying areas should take what precautions they can to mitigate potential damage.

“If we know we’re in a low-lying area, we should move our livestock to a higher area and locate some of those areas, such a neighbor’s place that is out of the floodplain,” Malcolm suggests.

Baker also reminds producers that equipment can be heavily damaged if it is submerged in water and recommends moving it out of potential flood zones.

“When our farm equipment is parked all winter, it doesn’t really matter where it is, but we should move our tractors, trucks and cultivating equipment to the highest places we can park them,” he says.

Issues related to standing water may also pose a challenge this season, and Malcolm comments there could potentially be in increase in mosquitos, diseases and funguses related to recent damp conditions.

“There’s no way for the water to dissipate, other than through evaporation, which will cause more concern with salinity in those low-lying areas, especially in Fremont County. We might have to do some remedial work in terms of reseeding or growing those crops,” he says.

Statewide precipitation

Other areas in Wyoming saw flooding last week, as well, though precipitation levels are variable throughout the state.

“On the Laramie River, there has been flooding, and the North Platte above Seminoe Reservoir is very high. There are also areas of concern through the Saratoga, Encampment and Riverside area, and there is high water and potential flooding on the Little Snake River in Baggs,” Baker remarks.

The Upper Green River Basin and areas above Fontenelle Reservoir have seen significant precipitation, as well, along with areas along the Big Sandy River.

However, looking at snowpack levels, Baker also states, “A lot of the western part of the state is below normal and significantly below normal in Yellowstone and Teton County. Conditions in the Big Horns are slightly below normal.”

In Fremont County, the Extension office has been working with the fairgrounds and emergency management services to secure facilities for livestock and residents affected by flooding.

Malcolm reminds residents, “We have resources at our Extension offices to help with ideas for remediation, where to go for emergency disasters and how to work with other federal agencies. We have a lot of resources available.”

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Wyoming experienced its 112th warmest and seventh driest June to August in the 122 years data have been collected. However, temperatures and precipitation were near average throughout the state in August.

The Sept. 13 U.S. Drought Monitor map shows drought conditions have lessened in areas of Wyoming. However, moderate to severe drought persists throughout Crook, Weston, Campbell and Big Horn counties. Drought conditions have intensified in Park and Teton counties, from abnormally dry to severe, and moderate drought conditions have evolved in northern Lincoln, Sublette and Fremont counties. Abnormally dry conditions have expanded throughout Lincoln, Uinta, Sublette, Sweetwater, Carbon and Niobrara counties. Abnormally dry conditions persist throughout other counties in Wyoming.

To view the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map, which is updated weekly, visit weather.gov/riw/drought.

The Seasonal Drought Outlook for Sept. 15 to Dec. 31 shows conditions are expected to improve everywhere except northern Teton County, where drought is expected to persist. Drought conditions are expected to continue but improve in areas of Crook, Weston and Campbell counties.

Monthly and seasonal forecasts

As of Sept. 15, all of Wyoming has a greater probability – 40 percent – to experience above normal temperatures in October. The precipitation signals for October are less clear with equal chances of above, below or normal.

The seasonal temperature outlook for October through December in Wyoming shows a 33 to 50 percent probability that the state will experience above normal temperatures – with the lowest probability in the northeast corner. The seasonal precipitation outlook for Wyoming shows an equal chance of above, below or normal precipitation, with the exception of the very northern swath of the state, where there’s a 33 percent probability of above normal precipitation.

There are fewer active fires now compared to a month ago. However, similar to last month, the fire potential remains high for much of the state. We should remain vigilant and prepared for the potential of continued fires throughout the state considering current conditions and the October outlook.

The La Niña watch has been cancelled for the fall and winter. However, it’s anticipated Wyoming will experience patterns more associated with La Niña but to a lower degree and with less confidence. Time will tell for the fall and winter conditions, so stay tuned next month for an update.

Ag considerations

We want to highlight the most recent issue of RangelandsDrought on Rangelands: Effects and Solutions. Rangelands is a scientific, non-technical journal written for a wide-range of audiences ranging from educators, rangeland managers and owners to policy leaders.

The current issue is open or free access, which means anyone can view the publication. The drought-focused issue includes 11 articles. The following are titles of several of the articles:

Where Do Seasonal Climate Predictions Belong in the Drought Management Toolbox?

New Tools for Assessing Drought Conditions for Rangeland Management

Rangeland Responses to Predicted Increases in Drought Extremity

Drought Mitigation for Grazing Operations: Matching the Animal to the Environment

Adaptive Management on Rangelands

“In Every Rancher’s Mind:” Effects of Drought on Ranch Planning and Practice

The issue is available at sciencedirect.com/science/journal/01900528/38/4.

We hope you find the publication of interest. Do you have drought, rangelands or livestock management related questions? Let us know. Email Windy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Windy Kelley of UW Extension and the Northern Plains Climate Hub is available at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 307-766-2205. Tony Bergantino, Wyoming Water Resources Data System deputy director, and Justin Derner of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service also reviewed this article.

Lincoln, Neb. – The National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, hosting a reception on Dec. 8 in Lincoln, Neb.

“There has been such a strong focus here, working with groups throughout the U.S. and internationally on drought management issues – everything from monitoring through preparedness and policy issues. It was time to celebrate the successes of this group and the ongoing program,” remarks Don Wilhite, former director and founder of NDMC.

Center development

NDMC was established in 1995 after Wilhite recommended a national drought mitigation program to USDA.

“There really was no group inside or outside the federal government that focused exclusively on drought. We were, as a nation, doing such a poor job of responding to drought. It was very reactive, responding to crisis instead of being more proactive and working on preparedness planning,” he explains.

The program was initially funded by Congress and has received a diverse funding base over the years, supporting projects focused on improving drought monitoring and creating early warning systems throughout the country.

“We’ve been involved in organizing a number of national conferences. We’ve worked over the years with a wide variety of states in the U.S., also getting engaged with groups like the Western Governors Association (WGA),” he comments.

Impacts

Water issues remain critical in western states, and WGA has been pushing for improvements in both state and federal responses to drought, as well as planning for drought in the future.

“Drought is a very different hazard than things like floods, earthquakes and tornadoes. There are so many different variables that need to be monitored on a regular basis and integrated to really understand what the current status of water conditions is in particular regions,” Wilhite continues.

Rainfall, temperatures, snowpack, reservoir levels, stream flow, groundwater levels and soil moisture are examples of factors that can impact the drought status in a given region.

“Drought is an issue that cuts across many different government agencies at the state level and also at the federal level. To be effective in terms of preparing for drought, we have to get various agencies to collaborate with one another, to share data and to share responsibility,” he adds.

Partnerships

Along with states and federal government agencies, NDMC also works with non-governmental agencies and Native American tribal groups to foster the concept of preparedness and improved monitoring.

“This involves working with communities, livestock producers, farmers, municipalities and a wide range of stakeholders out there,” Wilhite says.

Collaboration is also necessary across economic sectors such as agriculture, energy, transportation, recreation and tourism.

“Drought impacts cause conflict between those sectors because we are all trying to utilize the same water source. It’s important for those sectors to think about longer-term strategies and how they are going to work together to reduce conflicts and impacts in the future,” he notes.

NDMC encourages people to assess the vulnerabilities of their businesses and operations by looking at impacts from previous droughts and developing strategies to reduce those impacts moving forward.

Thinking ahead

“The challenge has been getting people to think about drought in a different way and to think about drought as something we can prepare for,” Wilhite explains.

One of the tools developed by NDMC, in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and USDA, is the U.S. Drought Monitor map.

“That’s become a staple of the federal government now. That product is used for essentially all policy decisions related to drought by the federal government.  It is also used by many states,” Wilhite says.

The program has also encouraged the development of state drought plans throughout the country.

“When I first started working on the drought management issue back in the early 80s, prior to NMDC being formed, we only had three states in the U.S. with drought plans. Now we have 47 states with drought plans,” he adds.

Collaborative efforts have been expanded internationally as well.

“This is a challenge for all countries. Now, it’s becoming even more of an important issue because, with climate change, the expectation is that the dry climates of the world are likely to get drier, and droughts are likely to become more frequent, of longer duration and more severe,” he explains.

Continued efforts

Moving forward, NDMC will continue to improve monitoring and management throughout the U.S. and the world.

“Many projects are underway at the NDMC. In fact, NOAA has just chosen the NDMC for a new center that is being formed, called the Drought Risk Management Center,” says Wilhite.

The program is part of NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), and it will emphasize early warning systems and vulnerability assessment related to drought risk.

“There are also some projects being funded through USDA because agriculture remains a very vulnerable sector within the country and around the world,” he adds.

Wilhite explains that weather patterns have always included periods of drought, and people can be more proactive toward future events.

“It’s imperative, as we move toward the future, to really focus on drought and the implications of drought for people, the environment and sustainability in general,” remarks Wilhite.

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..