snow melt

The Modern West 30: Melting And Migration

Dec 19, 2017
JOE RIIS

This time, we visit melting ice fields, ask whether climate change is fueling summer fires, and step into the hooves of big animals as they migrate to winter ranges.

Melodie Edwards

We drive for hours on a terrible dirt road to reach the ice patch, but Colorado State University archeology professor emeritus Larry Todd says, heck, this is nothing.

“Today we'll be able to get in the truck and drive for an hour and a half to an ice patch. That's about as close as we can get,” he says. “More often it's, go to the trailhead, load up the horses and pack mules and ride for six to eight hours to get into the area where you can start studying those.”

Beartooth Snowfields Melting

Oct 5, 2015
Dr. James Halfpenny

Snowfields that have topped the Beartooth Mountains for centuries are gone now. A Montana Scientist, Dr. Jim Halfpenny says they melted this summer.

A waterfall near the Beartooth Highway is just part of the beauty this area offers now. The highway brings travelers back and forth from Northwest Wyoming to southern Montana. The colors are brilliant. The sky is clear. The weather is warm and balmy.  

David Koch

Wyoming’s snowpack is disappearing more than two weeks earlier than it used to. That’s according to NASA, which just wrapped up a study looking at the years 1972 through 2013. The study focused on the Wind River Range and concluded that snowpack is melting 16 days earlier than it did through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Dorothy Hall is a senior scientist with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and was one of the authors of the study. She says less snowpack can put a strain on resources in the West.  

Timothy Haase

If it has felt like an especially warm winter, you’re not imagining things. This year has been the third warmest winter on record in Wyoming. That’s according to the National Weather Service in Riverton. Meteorologist Chris Jones says all these balmy temperatures have been caused by a persistent ridge of high pressure along the Pacific Coast. He says temperatures have been as much as six degrees higher than normal, especially on the Western side of the state. And there are no signs that they will return to average in the next month.

Caroline Ballard

Southeastern Wyoming may be seeing heavy snow this weekend, but if you have tried skiing there over the past month or so, you may have run into a problem: dirt. With temperatures consistently in the 40s and 50s and little precipitation, snowpack in this part of the state is well below average. 

Cross country skiing on the icy slush isn't fun. Just ask Matthew Klump, a sophomore at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He’s just finished  skiing a Valentine’s Day weekend race at Happy Jack, and is recounting the race with some of his teammates.

Several residents have been asked to evacuate their homes in Wood’s Landing because an access road was flooded by the rising Laramie River.  And residents in the towns of Saratoga and Encampment are on alert for evacuations, as high snow melt floods the North Platte River.  Flooding in Park and Fremont Counties has not led to evacuations, but officials are wary of rainfall this weekend.  

Kathi Metzler is the Emergency Management Coordinator in Fremont County where she’s monitoring the Wind River.