GREAT FALLS — The National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), an agency of NOAA, released an update on the state of Montana's climate and projections going forward.
The NCEI issues climate normals, which are updated each decade. The newest climate normals being released in May of 2021.
During the 21st century, temperatures as a whole throughout the world have warmed about 1.8º Fahrenheit. However, in Montana, there has been about a 2.5º rise in temperatures, greater than both the global and national averages. Yearly temperature averages have almost entirely been above average since the late 1990s. Without any action in reducing greenhouse gases, the research finds temperatures in our state will climb around 3-5 times faster in the next century than in the last.
Precipitation is another factor to consider for many industries in the state. The update indicates that fall, winter and spring precipitation increases while summer precipitation decreases. The potential precipitation increases comes as a double-edged sword. Increased soil moisture is welcome but excessive precipitation can lead to delays in planting and further losses in product.
With increased temperatures likely year-round, early snowmelt becomes a concern. In an ideal set-up, snowpack gradually melts through early to mid-April slowly feeding water supplies throughout the state and giving the state a solid water supply throughout summer. Early snowmelts are becoming increasingly likely with warmer temperatures expected. Unfortunately, this depletes the state's water supply by late summer and fall leading to a harsher drought and more intense wildfire season.