As the water year comes to an end, where does north central Montana sit?

Posted at 7:41 AM, Oct 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-02 09:41:54-04

As of 3:30 PM on Friday, September 30th, Great Falls airport had picked up 0.93 inches. This amount is already nearly quadruple the amount of precipitation recorded throughout the entirety of September 2021, and there is more rain to come throughout the rest of the evening.

September 30th also marks the end of the water year, which has had its ups and downs in Montana. It began with record-breaking dry conditions, especially along the Hi-Line, where most locations saw little to no precipitation for weeks on end.

There were several Pacific weather systems that brought heavier snowfall to higher elevations of Western Montana, but the plains continued to receive subpar precipitation during the 2021-2022 winter season. The tail end of winter and the spring season brought closer to average precipitation and above normal snowpack well into spring. Eastern Montana received several major snowstorms throughout spring, while north central Montana received 60-90% of 30-year average annual precipitation.

Here are the precipitation totals, as of 5PM on the last day of the water year (September 30th, 2022):

Great Falls: 12.13 inches, 2.46 inches below the 30-year average
Helena: 9.15 inches, 2.04 inches below the 30-year average
Lewistown: 14.86 inches, 1.96 inches below the 30-year average
Glasgow: 8.78 inches, 4.45 inches below the 30-year average
Havre: 8.78 inches, 2.66 inches below the 30-year average
Cut Bank: 9.49 inches, 0.82 inches below the 30-year average

It is no question that north central Montana is closing out this water year in a much better position than the last one. Around two-thirds of the state was experiencing extreme drought this time last year. As of Thursday’s drought update, just over 12% of the state is experiencing extreme drought. The drought has expanded into eastern portions of the Hi-Line from Havre to Glasgow.

While the continued forecast for La Nina conditions into the upcoming winter provides some optimism, it will take years to recover what has been lost with year-to-year deficits throughout north central Montana.