Halfway through the meteorological winter, Wyoming snowpack levels are a mixed bag but trending in the right direction.
“Compared to one year ago, snowpack is near or above where we are today,” said Tony Bergantino, Acting Director Water Resources Data System at the Wyoming State Climate Office
Lincoln and Teton counties, along with much of the Western half of the state, have snowpack levels above 100% of the median. Much of Northeastern Wyoming is near 80% of the median with several Eastern counties below 60%. According to Bergantino, these are the areas of the state the climate office is most concerned about.
“However, it is only the middle of January and it is the later snowstorms that have the most impact on our snowpack. I’ve seen poor years turned completely around by a few good heavy snowfalls at higher elevations during March,” said Bergantino.
Snowpack levels are just one contributing factor to overall drought conditions, but the more snow the better. Wyoming has been in at least a moderate drought for years now according to the Wyoming State Climate office. Currently, much of the state is in severe drought, including Lincoln and Teton counties.
Snowpack also has a complex relationship with avalanches. The danger comes from more than just the amount of snow, Bergantino said.
“Recent snows will obviously put extra weight on an existing snowpack and can cause additional stresses,” said Bergantino. “Usually, the way a snowpack has developed throughout the year is one of the most critical factors.”
There have been 172 avalanche events recorded in the Bridger-Teton National Forest so far in 2022. This is about a third less than the same period last year.
“Snowpack stability can change in just a day or two depending upon environmental conditions,” said Bergantino.
With much of Lincoln County at 103% of median snowpack, the avalanche danger will continue to evolve with the temperature and additional snowstorms.