State snowpack levels still well below average


POWELL (WNE) — Despite recent snow events, Wyoming is still significantly below averages in recent years in snow/water equivalent as measured by the state’s automated snow monitoring system, known as SNOTEL.

The reports are operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Currently the state’s combined SNOTELs are reading 83% of median with a basin high of 106% (Lower Green Basin in southwest Wyoming) and a basin low of 37% (South Platte Basin in southeast Wyoming).

Last year, the state was at 115%, and at 90% in 2022.

In northwest Wyoming, the Yellowstone Basin lags behind the rest of the region at 63%, while surrounding basins, including the Shoshone, Bighorn and Snake basins in the high 70% and low 80% range.

This time last year, the Yellowstone Basin was at 94% of median, based on a 30-year period from 1991 through 2020. The Wind Basin was near normal at 97% for the best reading in the region.

Most of Northwest Wyoming is reported to be between abnormally dry to severe drought, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The ongoing research is used by the USDA to trigger disaster declarations and agricultural loan eligibility.

Just five years ago in 2019, 82.3% of the U.S. was abnormally wet in spring, the most according to the Standardized Precipitation Index records since 1895.

However, drought conditions began to accelerate in the summer of 2020, reaching a five-year peak in October of 2022, the National Integrated Drought Information System reports.

The SNOTEL network is composed of over 900 automated data collection sites located in remote, high-elevation mountain watersheds in the western U.S. They are used to monitor snowpack, precipitation, temperature and other climatic conditions.