NewsMissoula County


Predicted El Nino weather pattern slowly materializing in Western Montana

Posted at 6:31 PM, Jan 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-08 20:31:15-05

MISSOULA – The Climate Prediction Center has been projecting an El Nino Weather pattern for this winter for the last few months.

In a nutshell, El Nino winters typically lead to slightly drier and warmer weather conditions for western Montana. The months that are most impacted are December through April. As we head into the second week of January, El Nino is taking time to develop.

“It’s still developing in the Pacific, and the connections between the Pacific and our weather patterns have been a bit slow to develop,” said National Weather Service Meteorologist Corby Dickerson. “We still do anticipate a weak El Nino, we’re still anticipating it to be a little bit drier than normal.”

This slow development has been a positive for the mountains. The El Nino pattern pushes the polar jet stream farther northward than we’d normally see. However, Pacific storm systems have been the norm over the last two months, dumping a good amount of snow in the higher elevations. This is good news for skiers, snowboarders and the overall base is good for runoff this spring

“It’s actually been a really good winter for us,” Dickerson said. “We’re sitting really near normal, about 97 percent of normal in the Bitterroot, and as you work your way toward the Canadian border, we’re about 87 to 95 percent of normal.”

Dickerson adds that even though the inevitability of the full effects of the global weather pattern are yet to come, it isn’t all gloom and doom.

“I think El Nino gets a little bit of a bad name, that it is going to be bad for our skiing, it’s going to be bad for our recreating, it’s going to be bad for our rivers, it’s going to be bad for summer, and that’s not always the case.”

The later El Nino goes into the spring and early summer, the less of an overall impact it has on our weather pattern, which means we could very well have plenty of mountain snow that will be needed when warmer late spring temperatures arrive.

In previous El Nino years, mountain snowpack has run about 20 percent below normal.

 — Story by Russ Thomas – MTN News