One benefit of a huge snowpack and extended runoff period, along with plenty of spring thunderstorms, is the greening up of Wyoming’s vast open spaces.
“We are truly blessed to have such a green year after the drought we've been in,” said Lorri Lang, moderator for the Facebook page “Wyoming Through the Lens,” a platform where professional and amateur photographers share images of the Cowboy State. “I think we are all so overjoyed with the beauty of our Wyoming this year that we all want to share!”
Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day says to enjoy a green Wyoming while it lasts.
“We're kind of very much in the sweet spot right now,” said Day. “Late May through the first two weeks of June, in my experience around here, is usually the greenest.”
No Hard Freeze
Day pointed out that the harsh winter most Wyomingites experienced may have delayed spring growth this year slightly, but the greenery and blooming plants were helped last month because there was no hard freeze in May.
“A lot of the trees that bloom, whether it's crabapples or lilacs or people who have fruit trees, sometimes a late May or mid-May freeze will really knock down that bloom period,” said Day. “But we didn't get that this year, so that added to the greenness, the fact that we escaped a really severe cold snap in May. It was cool, but we didn't have anything that was freezing either.”
Some parts of the state have seen impressive amounts of rainfall this spring as well, which have contributed to the explosion of fast-growing grasses on the prairie.
Mike Natoli, meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s office in Cheyenne, said Laramie County in particular has experienced above-average precipitation.
“In the month of May, we recorded 2.76 inches of rain, which was 0.32 inches above normal,” Natoli told Cowboy State Daily. “We did observe significantly more rainfall falling just to the east of town. We had some reports around the Burns and Carpenter areas that there was upwards of 5 inches of rainfall in the eastern part of Laramie County, and also just to the north of Cheyenne.”
He explained that last month, measurable rainfall fell on 19 of 31 days, which was the eighth most on record in terms of the number of days with measurable rainfall in the month of May.
“So that was kind of really nice for the greenup, especially because the rain sort of fell fairly slowly. We didn't have all of that over 2 and a half inches of rainfall at once,” he said. “We had several days of moderate and briefly heavy rainfall, and that does help it soak into the soil a little bit better."
But Natoli noted that the last couple of years have been significantly drier, so this spring’s intense shades of green seem even more vibrant.
“Last year was so dry in the spring, so when we have this above-normal rainfall, and we compare it to just how dry last year was, it looks so much greener than it did last year at this time,” he said. “We had more than double the rainfall in the months of April and May together than we did in the same months last year.”
Enjoy It While It Lasts
Day said that it won’t be long until the vibrant green of the growing grasses will start to fade.
“You start to get a little bit of a different tinge to the color, and that usually happens — at least on the prairies — as we start to get to the end of the second half of June,” he said. “The grasses go to seed and that starts to change things up a little bit, and we naturally start to see less precipitation as we get into late June.”
But in Wyoming, Day pointed out, it’s fortunate in that it greens up into higher elevations as well.
“As the higher meadows in the mountains melt out, the green will go up longer, because it starts later,” he said. “The wildflowers and the green will climb in elevation. So my recommendation is go to the mountains (as the prairie fades) because the wildflowers and everything else will be just spectacular.”
And Lang said the photographers who contribute to “Wyoming Through the Lens” will be taking advantage of those views.
“I know it can change fast,” she said, “but we're going to take it all in as long as we can!”