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Intermountain West Drought & Climate Outlook Webinar: February 20, 2024

Event Date
February 20, 2024
Event Time
1:00 pm - 1:35 pm

As of February 20, current drought conditions vary widely across the Intermountain West. The southern states in the region continue to sustain drought conditions with 88.2% of New Mexico in drought (D1-D4) and 54.6% (D1-D3) of Arizona. The northern states are reporting less drought with 21.7% of Wyoming in drought, 11.7% of Colorado, and only 3.8% of Utah in drought (D1-D2).

This webinar examined current conditions for the Intermountain West and the forecasted drought conditions for Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. 

For more information, please contact Dr. Gretel Follingstad (


Welcome to the Intermountain West Drought Briefing 

Speaker: Dr. Gretel Follingstad | NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)

  • Welcome to the February 2024 Intermountain West Drought Briefing:
    • View past webinar recordings at
    • Introducing the speakers: 
      • Intermountain West Conditions & Drought Outlook: Tony Anderson, NOAA's National Weather Service – Cheyenne, Wyoming
        Wyoming Drought Dashboard: Tony Bergantino, Wyoming State Climate Office & Water Resource Data System, University of Wyoming
        Wyoming Agricultural Community Needs Assessment Survey: Windy Kay Kelley, USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub & University of Wyoming Extension
  • Read the latest Western Snow Drought Status Update.



Current Conditions and Drought Outlook 

Speaker: Tony Anderson| NOAA’s National Weather Service – Cheyenne, Wyoming

  • The western U.S.—and the Intermountain West region in particular—was warm and mostly dry thus far this winter.
  • Recent storms improved snowpack from well below normal to just below normal for most mountain ranges in the region.
  • Drought conditions may be slow to recover as snowpack and runoff are assessed.
  • Headwaters reservoirs across the Intermountain West states have recovered considerably. However, Lakes Mead and Powell remain extremely low.
  • We are currently in a strong El Niño, which is forecast to transition to a La Niña this summer.
  • El Niño can bring late winter and spring snows to Colorado and Wyoming. 



Special Presentation: Wyoming Drought Dashboard

Speaker: Tony Bergantino | Wyoming State Climate Office & Water Resource Data System, University of Wyoming

  • The Water Resources Data System (WRDS) is a database and resource of hydrological and climatological data for the state of Wyoming. WRDS is funded by the Wyoming Water Development Office and is a part of the Department of Atmospheric Science at the University of Wyoming. 
  • WRDS serves as the Wyoming State Climate Office (SCO) and, as such, we provide a variety of services ranging from the development of enhanced drought-monitoring products to the online dissemination of water and climate resources and publications. WRDS/SCO also supports a variety of stakeholder groups by assisting in the development of the Wyoming State Water Plan and helping to coordinate long-term monitoring efforts throughout the region.
  • WRDS allows users to view and overlay multiple parameters of climate, water, and drought information and data for the state of Wyoming.
  • WRDS is an evolving tool that provides useful information for users, which helps with drought but goes beyond just drought.
  • The Wyoming State Climate Office is open to feedback to improve usability:
    • What would you like to see and better understand?
    • What makes this more useful for all audiences?



Special Presentation: Wyoming Agricultural Community Needs Assessment Survey

Speaker: Windy Kay Kelley | USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub & University of Wyoming Extension

  • The needs assessment survey was aimed at identifying weather, climate, and water data, tools, and resource needs among technical service providers that would enable them to better serve their clientele.
  • Critical topics for consideration in Wyoming included: 
    • Drought management
    • Water availability
    • Climate change preparation and mitigation
    • Building system resilience
    • Changing weather patterns and ecosystem resilience
  • Research/outcomes of the assessment include: 
    • Conservation improved technologies
    • Groundwater recharge, storage
    • Education/community involvement (e.g., internships for undergraduates)
    • Producer centered research and outreach
    • Co-development of research, policies, and implementation
    • Making resilience actionable (translate data into actionable steps)
    • Focus on education (and buy-in)
    • Improve relationships (build trust)
    • Communication (between agricultural and non-agricultural communities with government and researchers)
  • What has changed in Wyoming?
    • Average temperatures have increased >2.5 °F since 1900.
    • Annual rainfall has increased 0.19 inch since 1895.
    • Extreme rain has increased since 1950.
    • Evaporation has increased due to rising temperatures.



Questions & Answers

Speaker: Dr. Gretel Follingstad | NOAA/NIDIS, CIRES/CU Boulder