Feb 19, 2016

Warm and dry trend likely to linger through February

Temperate winter temperatures with trace precipitation may very well be the bellwether of spring.

Chuck Baker, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Riverton, said early spring is showing a dry, warm pattern.

“We could see a drought raising its ugly head as we go into spring,” Baker said.

Generally, there has been a high pressure ridge over the West pushing a major trough through the Midwest region. The result has been abnormally cold temperatures in the eastern United States and abnormally warm temperatures in western U.S., Baker said. Northwest winds from Alaska and the Yukon are funneling cold into the upper Midwest, northern Plains and Great Lakes. Downslope winds from the Alberta, Canada, and the Rocky Mountains are creating warm winds in northern Wyoming.

Sheep enjoy the warmer temperatures outside of Powell last week. Cody News Co. photo by Toby Bonner
“It’s typically called the February thaw,” Baker said.

January 2016 saw zilch precipitation over in Powell; the average is 0.22 inches.

No measurable precipitation has been reported thus far in February, but some areas have seen some small amounts of precipitation in the Big Horn Basin. The February average is 0.13 inches.

There is a chance of showers Thursday, but more than likely it will be confined to the Big Horn and Absaroka mountains, Baker said.

In the meantime, keep the sunblock handy while catching some rays.

“The mild temperatures look to be continuing until at least the end of the month,” Baker said.

A moderate El NiƱo could effect the winter/spring transition, making Wyoming warmer and drier on the east side of the Continental Divide, he said.

Still, he added that the area could very well experience a cold spell the end of this month and into March.

According to the Water Resources Data System from the University of Wyoming, Shoshone Basin’s snow water equivalent was 87 percent of average on Monday, with the Big Horn Basin at 70 percent.

Things are dry in the Big Horn Basin, although the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicts spring inflow to Buffalo Bill Reservoir will be greater than its neighboring reservoirs to the north and south.

• April through July inflow for Buffalo Bill Reservoir from the Shoshone River is forecast at 570,000 acre-feet. That's 83 percent of the 30-year average of 686,300 acre-feet. As of Feb. 1, Buffalo Bill had 426,588 acre-feet of water in storage, making it 66 percent full.

• April through July inflow for Big Horn Lake from the Big Horn River was forecast at 596,200 acre-feet. That's a little more than half of the 30-year average of 1.11 million acre-feet. As of Feb. 1, Big Horn Lake had 870,379 acre-feet in storage, making it 85 percent full.
 • April through July inflow for Boysen Reservoir from the Wind River was forecast at 350,000 acre-feet, which is 64 percent of the 30-year average of 548,300 acre-feet. Boysen had 585,743 acre-feet of water at the start of the month, the Bureau of Reclamation says, making it 79 percent full.


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