Odds are that Montana’s winter will be marked by at or below normal snowpack and above-normal temperatures.
That’s according to the Missoula National Weather Service, which released its winter weather outlook Monday.
“We all remember what's happened the past couple of years,” says Bob Nester, the agency's climate program manager. “They were pretty harsh winters with some near-record snows and cold arctic outbreaks. This year is expected to be less severe than the previous two years.”
According to Nester that’s because a weak El Niño system - a band of warmer-than-normal ocean water - is setting up in the Equatorial Pacific, “which generally brings warmer and drier conditions to the Pacific northwest and Alaska.”
That also means the main jetstream that fed powerful winter storms to Montana for the past two winters will likely be further south this winter.
History shows snowpack averages in western Montana’s basins during weak El Niño years ranging from 68 percent to 82 percent of normal. Nester says those same basins reported snowpack running over 140 percent of normal last winter.
Forecasters say there’s growing confidence that western Montana will also have slightly above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation.