Opinion

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Reporter's Notebook

Weather Records

Montana has seen its share of records in the past year, including all-time snowfalls

The two most-read stories on the Beacon’s website over the last month, by far, are both about weather. One of them, a straightforward 155-word piece on Dec. 18 called “Massive Winter Storm Takes Aim at Northwest Montana,” is among our top 10 most-read stories of all-time. Yes, ever.

Weather affects everybody and pretty much everything we do, so it should be no surprise that those articles receive wide interest. It should also be no surprise that a number of the Beacon’s other top 10 stories ever are fire-related. Still, it occasionally takes reporters off guard when a brief online weather post receives far more attention than countless stories that took days, weeks, maybe months to report and write.

Natural disasters, or just nature’s extremes, never fail to attract our fascination. The internet has expanded access, 24 hours a day, to weather news, but humans’ interest in the climate is as old as humanity itself, to the point that it’s widely understood and accepted that if there’s nothing else to talk about, we talk about the weather.

From our nascent days as hunter-gatherers throughout the eons to our modern selves, our lives and livelihoods have depended on the weather: crops, wildlife and livestock, ability to travel and work, hobbies. Whereas we once had the Farmer’s Almanac as a resource, and still do, now we also have unlimited digital weather sources constantly at our fingertips.

So, let’s talk about the weather — Montana records, to be specific.

Last weekend’s storm interrupted a period of mild, if cold, weather, which had come on the heels of a substantial snow dump forewarned in the “Massive Winter Storm” story. While both storms were notable, neither broke any notable records.

But Montana has seen its share of records in the past year, including all-time snowfalls in Great Falls in November and Havre in October, and an astonishing 64 inches of snow in four days in St. Mary last February, shattering the area’s previous four-day record of 43 inches.

The coldest temperature ever recorded in Montana was 70 degrees below zero, without wind chill, at Rogers Pass north of Helena on Jan. 20, 1954, which is also the all-time record for the Lower 48. The hottest temperature in Montana was 117 degrees on July 5, 1937 at Medicine Lake in northeastern Montana, which is 187 degrees hotter than the record low, giving our state the national record for temperature extremes.

Speaking of extremes, the state holds the world record for a 24-hour temperature change, when the temperature rose 103 degrees — from 54 below to 49 above — in Loma on Jan. 15, 1972, or, depending on the source, the U.S. record when the temp dropped 100 degrees — from 44 above to 56 below — in Browning on Jan. 24, 1916.

Whether we’re writing about weather or not, we thank you for reading. Let’s break some records together.

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