Wyoming agricultural producers are wrestling events outside their control as La Nina off the west coast of the Americas pushes moisture-laden storms on a northern track and seemingly tightening drought’s grip on their rangelands.
National Weather Service charts and models paint a somber mood for the coming growing season. The cool ocean currents of La Nina affect the flow of storms across the northwest, precipitation falling to areas north of much of Wyoming.
Now through May are typically the state’s snowiest months.
“The weather pattern right now is pretty scary,” said Barton Stam, a University of Wyoming Extension rangeland educator based in Hot Springs County. He’s offered drought year grazing strategies to producers attending his presentations at farm and ranch conferences this winter.
Mountain basin snowpack totals are edging toward average and in some places are above normal. That doesn’t help rangelands. The U.S. Drought Monitor map for Wyoming in late February shows extreme drought ballooning in central parts of the state, from the Colorado border to just south of Sheridan County, flowing into Carbon, Sweetwater, Natrona, Fremont, Hot Springs, southeastern Big Horn, Converse and Johnson counties.
Much of the rest of the state is designated severe to moderate.