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A slow start to winter for Wyoming is causing concern about future drought 

A dog runs along a sparsely snow covered two-track with the sun beaming down.
Caitlin Tan
Wyoming Public Media
A sparsely snow covered two-track in western Wyoming.

So far, it’s been a really dry winter across Wyoming, and it could have lasting effects.

Much of the state saw snowfall around Thanksgiving, “but outside of that, yeah, not a whole lot going on,” said Aaron Woodward, lead meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Cheyenne.

He said for this time of year, we’re seeing below normal snowfall and above average temperatures.

“That has to do a lot with the el Niño pattern we're in,” Woodward said. “Typically el Niño patterns kind of trend toward a slower start to the winter season as most of the storm tracks miss us to the south.”

He said there’s still potential for some big, late season storms, and there’s even a little snowfall predicted over the next 10 days or so.

“Might just be enough to just coat things, maybe a trace at best,” Woodward said. “The mountains could see maybe around five, six inches of snow.”

However, if the dry weather trend continues through the winter, it could have rippling effects for the rest of the year.

“Some more significant drought issues, and that can open the door for some fire weather,” Woodward said. “You're getting some wildfires to start in the dry brush and timber across the mountains and maybe even the plains.”

Drought is a big deal in Wyoming because of it being a headwater state – our water flows down to the states south of us that are on the Colorado River basin system. Last winter’s above average snowfall across the West stabilized the whole system, which was at all time lows prior. Experts warn future water shortages will plague the system, despite the relief felt last year.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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