By Abby Perry
University of Wyoming Extension Carbon County Office 

Weather variability


As a University of Wyoming Extension Educator, I enjoy the opportunity to travel throughout our state during every season of the year. We have beautiful, wide-open space; albeit some of it appears desolate. However, the space itself is filled with life: trees, grasses, shrubs, and animals. Water is what sustains it all.

This past year, as I traveled, I became more observant and began to detect nature’s nuances. Small details were of particular interest to me. Of course, I noted lush, verdant grasses in some parts of the state and withered, brown grasses in others. In some parts of the state, I noticed pronghorn with horn growth far exceeding those in other parts of the state, which can, in part, be related to forage condition and weather severity at certain points in the growth cycle.

The residents of Carbon County experienced an extreme winter, while others in the state enjoyed a mild winter. The difference in winter severity manifested itself during our spring thaws. In my travels, I often pondered the difference in regions that were several weeks, if not a month, separated in experiencing high water and/or flooding. Coupled with normal or abnormal spring weather, what impact did it all have on land management practices?

In the larger scheme of things, what part does weather variability play in the success of any enterprise? On both the professional level, as an Extension Educator, and the personal level, as a private gardener, I believe that learning more about variability in weather provides the opportunity to enhance plant and animal productivity. A deeper knowledge and understanding of weather variability enables land managers to make more proactive, rather than reactive, decisions with regard to the plants and animals in their charge. Additionally, using sound, science-based knowledge about weather variability, Wyoming citizens can offer an informed voice in public forums where decisions are made that affect us all. Variability is uncertainty; of course there will be surprises, but understanding trends helps mitigate impact.

As variation in weather patterns continue, I would argue that management decisions require a “micro” rather than “macro” approach to finding viable solutions. While a common practice used to be talking about rain events in terms of month or season (macro – big picture), perhaps it is time to view the events through the daily or weekly (micro) lens. As unpredictability persists, it is more important to identify exactly when events are happening – time of day, part of month – as well as their duration. Management decisions based on a light, refreshing rain shower every afternoon vary tremendously from those based on an intermittent monsoon followed by a prolonged drought.

Timing of precipitation events is directly related to forage production. Spring moisture is critical to vigorous growth. Follow-up autumn moisture has potential to give improved pasture plants a late season boost, but more commonly banks moisture in the soil to be used in the spring. Anticipation of variation in these significant weather patterns requires preparation and planning. Successful managers in Wyoming never underestimate the volatility of our weather!

Precipitation events have always been difficult to predict; however, working together, we can make informed decisions by adjusting the weather lens and moving from sweeping generalities to a more refined, focused view of daily events and mini-trends. If climate and weather patterns are of interest to you, Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), can be a tremendous resource. Their mission is to house and share data points with interested parties in an effort to aid more informed management decisions. Additionally, CoCoRaHS volunteers help the National Weather Service and others to better grasp precipitation events on the landscape, and better inform forecasts.

To learn more about CoCoRaHS visit, contact me at 307-328-2642 or I would love to share more about this valuable resource.

For a chance to win a free CoCoRaHS rain gauge, email me your correct response to the following question: What are the 5 primary forms of precipitation?


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