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Long-term forecasts call for a cold, snowy winter in Montana

This 2021-2022 U.S. Winter Outlook map for precipitation shows wetter-than-average conditions are most likely in parts of the North, primarily in the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and western Alaska. Drier-than-average conditions are favored in south-central Alaska, southern California, the Southwest, and the Southeast. (NOAA Climate.gov based on NWS CPC data
NOAA Climate.gov based on NWS CPC data
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This 2021-2022 U.S. Winter Outlook map for precipitation shows wetter-than-average conditions are most likely in parts of the North, primarily in the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and western Alaska. Drier-than-average conditions are favored in south-central Alaska, southern California, the Southwest, and the Southeast.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Thursday issued its long-term winter outlook . Montana may be in line for a cold, snowy season.

La Niña, a band of cooler-than-normal ocean water, is once again setting up in the Pacific. This could have far reaching implications not only on Montana’s winter conditions, but our deep drought as well.

“Below-average seasonal mean temperatures are most likely for the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, northern high plains and southeast Alaska,” NOAA’s Jon Gottschalck says.

La Niña conditions not only trend toward colder-than-average Montana winters, but more precipitation, too.

“The precipitation outlook favors wetter-than-average conditions for the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and areas of western Alaska.”

The last La Niña developed in August of 2020 and subsequently produced a dry and mild winter in Montana.

This U.S. Winter Outlook 2021-2022 map for temperature shows warmer-than-average conditions across the South and most of the eastern U.S., while below average temperatures are favored for southeast Alaska and the Pacific Northwest eastward to the Northern Plains.
NOAA Climate.gov, using NWS CPC data
This U.S. Winter Outlook 2021-2022 map for temperature shows warmer-than-average conditions across the South and most of the eastern U.S., while below average temperatures are favored for southeast Alaska and the Pacific Northwest eastward to the Northern Plains.

What makes forecasters so confident that conditions will be any different this time under a second consecutive, so-called ‘Double-Dip’ La Niña?

“One thing that’s important to know with this current La Niña, it seems like the atmospheric response — the changes in the circulation, or jet stream in the north Pacific and into even parts of North America — have been a little more established earlier than, say, last year,” Gottschalck says.

NOAA’s seasonal outlooks provide only broad glimpses into anticipated seasonal temperature and precipitation trends.

The short-term forecast for most of Montana is calling for a couple of dry and warmer-than-normal days heading into this weekend, followed by cool conditions and widespread scattered rain through Wednesday.