Well, we’ve had a few wet snows in the last two weeks here in Wyoming. Due to the warm weather in the first half of April (at least here in Central Wyoming), the soil at lower elevations is able to absorb much of the moisture from these snows, which is a welcome occurrence.
I recently heard someone comment that if they heard one more person take the optimistic attitude to the inconvenience of a foot of snow on the streets, sidewalks, and driveways using the cheery “Well, we need the moisture,” they were going to scream. But the truth is, we DO need the moisture. Convenient or not, spring snows are integral to the water cycle in the Central Rockies. Without them, we are likely to have a very short “spring green” of the lower rangelands.
These last few snow storms have resulted in the Lower Platte River basin now measuring just under 90 percent of the long term snowpack average. The Upper Platte is now reported to be at 92 percent. The northwestern Yellowstone, Snake and Madison-Gallatin are now approaching 100 percent of “normal.” (Data as of 4/18/2013 from WRDS website)
Even though my livelihood doesn’t currently depend on abundant snowpack in the spring, I still watch the data with anticipation because I know the ramifications affect so many lives. Even though my intellect tells me drought cycles have been occurring in the Western Plains for thousands of years, I still find it distressing when the prairie is “burned up” by the end of May.
There have been times in our life when our livelihood DID depend on snowpack, and thus the availability of irrigation water, and it’s more than a little stressful to watch the stream flows drop drastically in June, knowing you need to irrigate crops until September in order to have a decent harvest.
Dry years mean anything dependent on vegetation suffers, whether it’s domestic livestock or wildlife. So as I trudge through the three foot drifts to get to the 4H pigs, or shovel yet another path, or clean another muddy floor, I will smile and say “We need the moisture,” and I’ll mean it.