Wyoming's Winter: As Scheduled or Off the Rails?

Wyoming’s Winter: As Scheduled or Off the Rails?

Written by on January 9, 2023

While snowpack is building across Wyoming, the long-range forecast for Winter 2022-2023 isn’t exactly matching up with the current weather – or is it?

The current winter season has already been a roller coaster in many ways. Yet, as the season progresses, the temperatures and conditions experienced don’t seem to match the long-range forecast for the region.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac released its forecast for Winter 2022-2023 in September 2022. Overall, the 2023 Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts a “Wet & Mild” winter for most western states. However, the High Plains region (which covers over half of Wyoming) was forecast to have a colder-than-normal winter, with the coldest periods in late November, early December, early January, and early February.

An interpretation of confusing regional forecasts is the Bighorn Basin would experience a colder-than-average winter with average – possibly above-average – snowfall.

There were record-breaking low temperatures in mid-December 2022, although later than the anticipated period in early December. Meanwhile, early January has been mostly mild, with little snow in the Bighorn Basin.

Courtesy Old Farmer’s Almanac

For the next week, temperatures across Wyoming will be in the 30s and 40s – not exactly a cold period for Winter 2022-2023.

Cody’s anticipated high on Friday, Jan. 13, is 48 degrees. Cheyenne could reach into the low 50s the same day.

Snow is in the forecast, but only a slight chance (20-60%) on Tuesday and Wednesday. While there were furious snowstorms in December 2022, most of the accumulation disappeared in the warm temperatures of January 2023.

Such conditions might raise fears of another dry winter. Much of Wyoming is experiencing moderate, severe, or extreme drought. Every inch of precipitation is sorely needed to avoid disastrous results like large, ferocious summer wildfires.

However, the best indicator of the “effectiveness” Winter 2022-2023 is to look at the state’s snowpack. And, based on these numbers, Wyoming is swimming.

January 9 2023 snowpack map

Courtesy Water Resources Data System & State Climate Office

As of Jan. 9, most of Wyoming’s basins are near, at, or above average snowpack for this time of year.

Staff at the Natural Resources Conservation Service Water and Climate Center have been tracking the state’s snow-water equivalents since the first flakes fell last year. Their data shows Winter 2022-2023 is doing its job and saturating the state with snow.

The current high is 168% S.W.E. in the Sweetwater River Basin. Bighorn Basin S.W.E.s range from 98% in the Bighorn River basin to 108% in the Yellowstone River Basin – good news for a potentially parched park.

The only basin of concern is the South Platte River Basin in Laramie County. The area – which perpetually struggles with low S.W.E.s – is currently at 58% of its average snowpack.

Overall, the snowpack information collected by the N.R.C.S. Water and Climate Center seems to corroborate with the long-term forecast in the Old Farmer’s Almanac: “Wet & Mild.”

Only time and several more winter months will determine the accuracy of the Old Farmer Alamanc’s long-term forecast. In the meantime, Wyomingites should brace for more snow, more low temperatures, and enough snowpack to keep things at or above average.


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