Western Montana is seeing a different kind of summer

Posted at 8:43 AM, Aug 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-22 10:54:11-04

MISSOULA — So has this summer felt a little different to you? Does it feel like we’ve really even had a summer?

We are two-thirds of the way through summer and the average highs for this July and August are just slightly below historical averages which land in the 85 to 86 degree range. When it comes to precipitation, Missoula has only received .02” above historical summer average.

Here’s where the difference really shows up -- we’re not seeing the extremes that often come with Western Montana summers. Over the last two summers, much of our area has experienced six-plus week stretches without measurable precipitation. But this summer, the longest run of dry days is 10.

Another interesting statistic as we head into late August is that Missoula’s warmest high temperature to this point is 96 degrees, and the odds of reaching a higher number grow less by the day.

Since 1997, only one Missoula summer has not reached a maximum high greater than 96, and that was in the summer of 2016, when our hottest day was 95. One positive result of this has been a relatively benign fire season and much better air quality.

The catalyst for our summer without extremes is a series of low pressure troughs that have been guided into the Northern Rockies by the jet stream. The consistency of these cooler, wetter systems has kept our typical strong summertime upper level ridges from sticking around more than a few days.

It’s created a constant reset in our overall weather pattern. These areas of low pressure have also brought an unusual number of thunderstorms. Lightning, wind, hail, and pockets of heavy rain have played a bigger role in our summer weather than normal.

There are still 33 days left in summer, and as we know, Mother Nature can turn things quickly, but the calendar tells us that, with each passing day an extended hot and dry weather pattern becomes less and less likely.