This past Wyoming winter overstayed its welcome, spring extended its stay and summer feels like it just got here.
Is the Cowboy State already transitioning to fall? All signs say yes.
Anyone recreating at Wyoming's Wyoming's highest elevation will notice a crispness returning to the alpine air. The first signs of fall are subtle, but historically show up around this time of year.
Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day said he sees weather patterns starting to change, something that usually happens around the end of August.
"We certainly see a trend that looks not as hot in the coming weeks,” he said. “Over Labor (Day) weekend, we'll start to see cooler temperatures, and there's definitely potential for some fall weather by mid-September.”
There are still plenty of summer days left to enjoy in 2023. Fall will start arriving in small bursts before settling in for the gradual descent toward winter.
Wyoming photographer Dave Bell said he felt the 'autumnish' chill on Thursday night.
"It sure feels like fall is creeping in," Bell said. "But beautiful time of the year."
Sunny, Snowy September
For many, September is the best month of the year in Wyoming, with nice weather and cooler days.
"That second to third week of September, there's usually something that comes through that really cools off, or it snows in the mountains,” Day said. “You can look at the calendar. We're not far from there."
Summer has had a few weeks of intense heat but was cooler overall than in recent years. Record amounts of precipitation throughout Wyoming helped keep plants lush, the ground moist and temperatures moderate, he said.
Many Wyomingites welcome the end of summer heat but might find themselves needing more preparation for the change than they'd expect. This is especially true for hunters, local and out-of-state.
"It is not uncommon to have significant weather in the high country with the first fronts that hit the mountains with snow in late September and early October,” Day said. “A lot of times, you leave for elk camp and it's 80 degrees on the planes. You're up there for a couple of days, and the next thing you know, you're snowed in.”
Snow hazards in the high country are more surprising for out-of-state hunters since locals have a better idea of what to expect. But given the weather patterns of 2023 so far, everyone should stay on their toes.
Snow That Sticks
Day believes the persistent pattern of moisture through spring and summer will carry over into fall. That means hunters should anticipate snow earlier in the season.
Snow in September is common, and in face, snow was spotted on some Wyoming mountain ranges in early August this year.
However, that snow usually doesn't stick.
By the beginning of October, whatever snow falls tends to stick, becoming the foundation for the winter snowpack. But snowpack could start building earlier if Wyoming experiences a cooler, wetter September.
Day recalled a 2019 snowstorm that dropped more than 30 inches of snow in the Snowy Range during the second weekend of October. Snow fell so fast that several pickups and campers were stranded in the mountains for the whole winter.
"October tends to be the month where the bigger, worse storms set in,” he said. “I think this is a fall season where we run a higher risk of one of those late September/early October snow events.”
There are no universals for Wyoming weather. Even if another 3 feet of snow falls in the Snowy Mountains in early October, the same thing might not happen in the Bighorn Mountains or any other region of the state.
It's best to be prepared for anything. Wyomingites don't need an urgent reminder, but Day believes it's better to be too cautious than too complacent.
"When you're you're in town, the weather's one thing,” he said. “As you go up in elevation, you're looking at a different climate, especially when transitioning into fall. There's a lot going on.”