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Drought Conditions Expected To Worsen In Southern Montana

Drought conditions in Montana as of June 30, 2020.
Adam Hartman - NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC
Drought conditions in Montana as of June 30, 2020.

Montana’s southern tier is experiencing drought conditions that are expected to intensify this summer. That’s according to the latest Montana Drought Forecast report, presented this week to the Governor’s Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee.

Northwest and west central Montana started out dry in early spring but have recently benefited from lots of rain and cooler-than-normal temperatures.

Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s Michael Downey says that reversal of fortune does not apply to southern Montana:

"And even in southwest Montana where we’re seeing drought conditions, they received some good moisture, but they were in quite a bit of a deficit. So, there really wasn’t enough moisture to overcome that."

U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook for June 18 - September 30, 2020.
Credit Brad Pugh - NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC
U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook for June 18 - September 30, 2020.

Downey says a high-pressure ridge over Wyoming threatens to push hot temperatures into southern Montana.

"Because Montana, especially east of the Continental Divide, tends to not get nearly as much precip after the first of July or so, it’s really dependent upon what happens with temperatures. It’s those days over 90-degrees that get really concerning. If we have too many of those days in a row, things dry out fast."

The Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, is calling for a 40% to 50% chance of above-normal temperatures across much of Montana through August.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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