Wyoming is in the middle of a very wet summer, but a new winter forecast circulating social media is making many shiver with anticipation.
Last week, Snowmobilers.com, "the only all snowmobiler social networking site," eagerly shared an unattributed color-coded graphic of the 2023-2024 Winter Forecast projecting a snowy winter, including for Wyoming.
While Wyoming’s snowmobilers are rejoicing, the state's top meteorologist has doubts about the projection’s sourcing and methods. Still, he added, the graphic could be correct – on accident.
The graphic shows most of the United States getting above-normal snowfall, with the heaviest snow predicted along the New England coastline. Other coastlines, from California to Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, are projecting less-than-average snowfall.
Meanwhile, Wyoming falls squarely in the zone of above-average, but not too-excessive snow for the season. This prospect is exciting for the state's snowmobilers and winter sports enthusiasts.
"Expect the season to be epic," the Aug. 2 post reads. And many people already are. As of Monday, the colorful graphic had received over 1,000 reactions and 11,000 shares.
Others might not be so excited. An "epic" snow season would mean more headaches for Wyoming drivers, as WYDOT already anticipates entering the season with 70 fewer snowplow workers than it would like.
A Winter Forecast Warning
Wyoming meteorologist Don Day noticed the sledders’ viral forecast online as well. "It's certainly making the rounds," he told Cowboy State Daily.
And in his professional opinion?
"I would proceed with extreme caution on looking at that graphic and assuming that it's going to be 100% correct."
Day said there are many reasons to be skeptical of the story the forecast is telling. When the first signs of winter are still several months away, the best you can do is "the trend."
"It's really difficult to make a forecast in the summer for the winter season this far out," Day said. A trend for higher snow in some parts of the country compared to others, he added, is the only thing weather-watchers can see on a long-range map.
“Drawing a map with defined lines like that is a tricky proposition," Day said.
Day noted the clear lines marking each zone of expected snowfall in the forecast. Making those delineations this early is an open invitation for skepticism, he said.
Furthermore, Day said he can't find the sources used to create the forecast, which makes it more challenging to assess its legitimacy.
"It's really hard for me to gauge where they got the information to come up with that," he said.
So, does that put the colorful graphic on ice? Not quite.
Even If It's Wrong, It's Right
Day is working on his preliminary forecast for the 2023-2024 winter season. He hopes to release his forecast - which incorporates historical patterns and long-term computer modeling - within the next two weeks.
Based on the information Day is compiling, there's a "better-than-average" chance of above-average snowfall in Wyoming this winter. He defines "the winter season" in Wyoming as the six-to-seven months between November 1 and May, when it tends to snow and stay snowy.
But Day is applying the same disclaimer to his own forecast: specifics make things difficult.
"You have to remember it was extremely snowy in several parts of Wyoming this past winter,” he said. “There were other parts that weren't as snowy. In Wyoming, it's hard to paint with a broad brush. It's a big enough state where not everyone is going to have similar results.
“But I do see a snowier trend this winter. And a cold one, as well."
Andrew Rossi can be reached at: arossi@CowboyStateDaily.com