The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

What's in store for us this winter? Warm/Cold, Wet/Dry, right now it seems to be anyones guess


October 9, 2019

Here is the graph depicting the three month (December/January/February) precipitation outlook for North America. The precipitation graph shows above normal moisture for a third consecutive year and the National Weather Service seemed much more confident in that assessment than the temperature, so prepare for another wet winter.

What can anyone say about the weather in North Central Montana, especially when it comes to October-March. Most residents of Blaine County have lived here for the majority of their life and as adults with 20-30-40 years of living on the Hi-line we can say we've pretty much seen it all. Even newcomers to the region, with just five to ten years of living in the region, can say they have pretty much seen it all.

It's easy to look back to 2015 when we experienced a more than mild winter and plenty of people were able to enjoy the great outdoors with plenty of comfort. As a golfer I can recall playing every month through the winter of 2015-16. In fact I played more golf in February than I did in May of that same year.

Then of course came the record snow fall in October of 2017 that left hundreds without power for a few days and some for more than a week. The October storm of 2017 delivered a wealth of property damage, structurally, buildings across the region collapsed due to the heavy wet snow and hundreds if not thousands of trees were damaged or destroyed in the storm.

Following the storm the region warmed up and residents experienced a mild November and for the most part December, enjoying a comfortable, but white Christmas. What was to follow in January, February and March turned the winter of 2017-18 into the second coldest October-March winter in history and it was accompanied with the second most snowfall of all time. February was the wettest on record and it wasn't until late April that the region finally escaped the hands of Old Man Winter.

2018-19 started out mild, we were able to enjoy moderate temperatures and normal precipitation, maybe even slightly below normal from November through January. February started out comfortable enough, but ended with a stretch through March that resulted in record cold and even more snow than the previous winter.

So what can we expect from the winter we are about embrace. There are two sources many will visit in their search for the most accurate forecast, the National Weather Service or the Old Farmers Almanac.

The Old Farmers Almanac to this day uses a formula created almost 230 years ago by its founder Robert B. Thomas in helping Prognosticators determine the upcoming forecast. The modern Day Farmers Almanac also uses modern scientific methodology in their forecast and they claim to have a 80.5% success rate. When it comes to weather predictions one might say that is extremely good.

Here is the graph depicting the three month (December/January/February) temperature outlook for North America. According the National Weather Service the Temperature outlook is a little harder to nail down, the graph shows a 30% chance for above normal temperatures but in talking with them it will be an average of plenty of cold days and stretches of warm days mixed in together.

However in their forecast a year ago, they completely missed the mark in predicting a mild, dry winter. This year their prediction is a repeat of a year ago with no fewer than seven major snow storms between Washington and Michigan.

The National Weather Service (NWS) three month outlook graphs show a better than 30% chance for above normal temperatures as well as above normal precipitation. In a phone call with the NWS out of Great Falls, officials were hesitant to predict a mild winter temperature rise and said the outlook is unclear but would suggest stretches of above normal temps followed by days of much cooler weather with the average being slightly above normal. They were clear in saying it was unclear about what to expect.

As far as the precipitation levels go, they were much more confident in saying levels were likely to be in that 30-40% above normal range. Question being would that be in the form of rain during the warm days or snow during the cold ones or even worse sleet when the temperature hovers in that high 20º, low 30º range.

What's gonna happen in North Central Montana this winter, it's anybody's guess. Check back in April and I'll tell you what happened. Stay warm and dry, be safe Blaine County.


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