Montana Public Radio

snowpack


A new report from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation is tentatively hopeful about Montana’s spring water outlook heading into fire season.

Montana Sub-basin Snow-Water Equivalent Percentage of 1981-2010 Normal, April 1, 2020.
USDA NRCS

Montana is edging closer to the spring runoff season. Scientists now have a better idea of what our mountain snowpack will yield this spring and summer.

Snow-Water Equivalent Percentage of 1981-2010 Normal, Feb. 1 2020.
USDA-NRCS Montana Snow Survey Staff

Talk about a comeback. Montana’s snowpack made significant gains last month, according to the federal government’s latest snowpack report for Montana. All river basins now report near to above-normal levels.

Temperatures will be slowly increasing in the Northern Rockies, starting this Friday and lasting through the first half of next week, with highs reaching the upper 40s to low 50s across much of north central Idaho and western Montana. March 13, 2019.
NWS Missoula

While a blizzard slammed parts of southeast Montana Wednesday, it seems winter weather is finally giving way to spring-like conditions west of the divide.

National Weather Service Missoula says spring runoff season is just about to start in earnest. 

Sub-basin snow water equivalent - March 1, 2019.
NRCS Montana Snow Survey Staff

February bucked all expectations of warmer-than-average temperatures and below normal snowfall.

“One of the things that is unique about this job is things can turn around pretty quickly, so you end up eating crow more often than you’d like,” says Lucas Zukiewicz, a water supply specialist with the Bozeman-based Natural Resources Conservation Service.

National Weather Service headquarters in Missoula, Montana.
Josh Burnham / MTPR

A blast of arctic air is barreling down on the Northern Rockies. Some snow and blowing snow is in the forecast, but meteorologist Alex Lukinbeal says the system’s biggest threat comes in the form of bitter cold temperatures.

Sub-basin snow water equivalent - Feb. 1, 2019.
Natural Resources Conservation Service

January didn’t start out great for Montana’s snowpack. The Bozeman-based Natural Resources Conservation Service says the first half of last month was dry across much of the state.

But NRCS Water Supply Specialist, Lucas Zukiewicz, says things picked up with late-January storms.

Sub-basin snow water equivalent - Jan. 1, 2019.
NRCS Montana Snow Survey Staff / USDA

Montana’s snowpack is hit or miss so far this winter. The Bozeman-based Natural Resources Conservation Service says autumn snowstorms laid a good foundation, but it's still too early to know where the season will go. 

Flooding in Missoula along the north end of Tower Street, May 7, 2018.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

This year’s record snowpack is rapidly melting, and it started earlier than normal.

Flooding along Rock Creek, a tributary of the Clark Fork River, near Clinton, MT, June 4, 2017.
Josh Burnham

An advisory council to the governor is considering a change to Montana's law on predicting drought conditions, following the historic 2017 fire season that caught state officials by surprise.

This time last year, Governor Steve Bullock’s Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee did not expect drought to be an issue for Montana in the warmer months of 2017. The committee sent their annual report to the governor last April when streamflows were high and spring rain was falling.

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