Weather Wise: Snowpack takes a hit

Weather Wise: Snowpack takes a hit
Posted at 4:48 PM, May 08, 2023

Pretty much everyone and everything enjoyed an unusually warm start to May with abundant sunshine and temperatures in the 70s and 80s, everything except the mountain snowpack. A rapid melt has left Montana in a situation worth watching.

After most of April was cold and snowy with winter seemingly never-ending, a significant warmup with temperatures in the 70s and 80s warmed Montana up for the first week of May. What was a healthy mountain snowpack turned into a bit of a deficit for this time of year.

Southwest and central Montana's snowpack is still close to average if not above average, but most areas along the Continental Divide and west of the divide are now below average. The prolonged warmup created a significant runoff of water. An area just north of Lincoln saw a decrease of nearly 8 inches of snow water equivalent in just a week, which is a lot. Most of Montana and the Northern Rockies saw several inches of water equivalent melt out of the mountains. Soil moisture across much of Montana is in pretty good shape.

South of Montana, a tremendous amount of snow still covers the mountains across most of the west.

But for Big Sky Country, this is not cause to hit the panic button just yet. Rather, something to watch heading toward fire season. Seasonal water supply forecasts are lowest in northwest Montana where they range from 60-90% of normal. Southwest and Central Montana forecasts range from 120-140% of normal.