- Associated Press - Friday, January 8, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The predicted effect of a strong El Nino on Wyoming’s weather seems to be panning out as the state entered the new year with below-normal snowfall.

Lee Hackleman, a water supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Casper, said Friday that the median snowpack across the state was 81 percent of average on Jan. 1.

“The western half of the state is doing OK, and the Snowies and Sierra Madres are OK, but the lower end of the Winds and the Bighorns and the Black Hills are all pretty low,” Hackleman said.

Snowfall in Wyoming ranges from a low of 54 percent of median in the Sweetwater River Basin to 129 percent in the Shoshone River Basin.

Early predictions are that the runoff from the snowmelt later this year is expected to be about 86 percent of normal in Wyoming.

Hackleman said the below average snowfall in much of the state is likely because of the strong El Nino, which is a natural warming in the Pacific Ocean that interacts with the atmosphere.

Most of Wyoming generally sees warmer, drier weather when an El Nino is present, he said. States along the Pacific Coast generally see more moisture.

“Everything to the west of us is doing better than we are,” Hackleman said. “We’re the dry state this year.”

Last year, when there was no El Nino, Wyoming generally received more snow and rain than states to the west, he said.

The good news is that Wyoming reservoirs, which the state relies heavily on for municipal and agricultural uses, have above normal water levels thanks to water left over from last year.

Reservoir storage statewide is 119 percent of average, according to the NRCS.

Reservoirs in the Snake River Basin are about 97 percent of average for water levels, while reservoirs in the Wind River, Bighorn, Cheyenne, North Platte, Laramie, Green River and Bear river basins are all above average.

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