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Weather Wise: Drought of 2017

Weather Wise: Drought of 2017
Posted at 6:38 PM, Mar 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-22 20:39:22-04

HELENA — Spring in Montana provides a little bit of everything: sunshine, warmth, cold and snow, flooding, fires, strong wind, and near picture perfect days.

The months of April, May and June are the wettest months of the year for most of the state. This precipitation is critical in that if we do not receive much moisture, the state could suffer the rest of the year.

It was the spring of 2017 when Montana fell into a record drought that ultimately produced a historic fire season in the summer.

The spring forecast from the Climate Prediction Center for Montana is near to slightly above average temperatures. Precipitation should be close to the average for the northern half of the state, but drier than normal conditions farther south. Above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation for much of the west is not good for an area still in a terrible drought.

This winter was supposed to be very cold and snowy with La Niña and an expected negative pacific decadal oscillation, but that did not happen. rather, a more positive pacific decadal oscillation dominated La Niña.

Currently, La Niña is weakening as is expected to become neutral. The Pacific decadal oscillation is also not very strong.

These factors do a couple of things. While it could mean a greater likelihood of average conditions, it also lowers forecast confidence when these big oscillations are not tipping their hand in a specific direction.

So for right now, this meteorologist(MTN’s Curtis Grevenitz) feels an active and slightly cooler than normal start to spring will continue through April before warmer temperatures and the likelihood of larger storm systems with heavier precipitation becomes likely later in May and June.

At least the good news is there is no indication Montana will plunge into a drought like in the spring of 2017.