NRCS Oregon Hydrologist Julie Koeberle helps Soil Scientist Thor Thorson calculate current water content in snow. NRCS photo.
Every winter Westerners look to the mountains and may not realize they’re peering into the future. More snow cap means more water come spring and summer. Many lives and livelihoods depend on nature’s uneven hand.
Thanks to USDA’s National Water and Climate Center, what used to be speculation is now science. Through a network of high-elevation weather stations across the West, the center accurately forecasts how much water Western states will receive from snowmelt.
The data benefits everyone in the path of the streamflow. The center’s water supply forecasts empower states to take action to prevent flooding or prepare for drought. Some farmers look to the water supply forecast when deciding what crops to grow. It’s like playing chess with nature, and you can almost see nature’s next move. Read more »
Wyoming agriculture is growing big, like the size of their average farm. Check back next Thursday for the next state spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
In May 2014, abundant snow and rain turned Wyoming pastures and crops green. In the same month, the 2012 Census of Agriculture showed that farmers and ranchers grew their opportunities from 2007 to 2012.
Wyoming is one of only 10 states that increased both the number of farms and ranches, up 6.1 percent, as well as the amount of land they operate, up 0.6 percent, between 2007 and 2012. Once again, Wyoming farmers and ranchers operated the largest farms and ranches in the U.S. with an average of 2,587 acres per farm compared with the U.S. average of 434 acres. Not only did the total number of farmers and ranchers increase, but the number of young farmers and ranchers increased, too. The number of Wyoming farmers and ranchers under the age of 35 increased by 17.4 from 2007-2012.
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Snowmelt on Mount Hood sends ample water down a stream in Oregon. NRCS photo.
April storms delivered a mix of rain and snow to the northern half of the West but didn’t provide much relief for the dry southern half, according to the latest USDA water supply forecast.
Washington, most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the northern parts of Colorado and Utah, are expected to have near normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecasts from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s National Water and Climate Center (NWCC). Streamflows that are far below normal are forecast for the southern parts of Oregon and Utah, southwestern Idaho, California, Arizona, New Mexico and western Nevada. Read more »
Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm. (NRCS photo)
March storms increased snowpack in the northern half of the West but didn’t provide much relief for the dry southern half, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Water and Climate Center (NWCC) in its April 2014 water supply forecast.
According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and northern parts of Colorado and Utah are expected to have near normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecast. Far below normal streamflow is expected for southern Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah and western Nevada. Read more »
The U.S. Forest Service has burned more than 480 acres in the Flying J Project, an effort on the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona to protect the community of Tusayan. The project is outside the Grand Canyon National Park and represents a small part of a larger effort to use controlled burns on more than 4,500 acres of the forest. So far, nearly 1,900 acres have been treated. (U.S. Forest Service/Holly Krake)
The loss of property and firefighters during wildfires are a reminder of the challenges we face in reducing the risks associated with large, unpredictable wildfires. Climate change, drought, insect infestations, changing land-use patterns, and other factors have contributed to increases in the complexity and in the numbers of wildfires across the United States.
Over the past four decades, some states such as Arizona and Idaho have seen the number of large fires burning each year more than triple. In many other western states, including California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wyoming, the number of large fires has doubled, according to a report by Climate Central. Average spring and summer temperatures across 11 Western states have increased by more than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, contributing to higher wildfire risks. In Arizona, spring temperatures have warmed faster than any other state in the U.S., rising nearly 1 degree per decade since 1970, which likely played a role in the increasing number of fires in the state. Read more »
An owl seems to plead for help after getting stuck in a vault toilet. A movement to save birds from serious injury and death garnered a Wings Across the Americas Award for the Teton Raptor Center of Jackson Hole, Wyo., and employees from several national forests. (Photo courtesy Teton Raptor Center)
Small owls, such as western screech and northern saw whet owls, weigh between 3 and 7 ounces, or about the same weight as a small cell phone or a deck of cards.
They prefer dark, narrow spaces for nesting and roosting, which is why they are called cavity birds. Their habitat preferences make them prone to using man-made features, such as open pipes, that mimic their natural nesting and roosting cavities. But on some public lands, that natural act of finding habitat in ventilation pipes has led to their death. Read more »