Montana Snowpack Levels Down Slightly

By Beacon Staff

Montana’s snowpack slightly declined for the second month in a row in February, bringing levels to 93 percent of normal and 85 percent of last year, according to survey data from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Snow levels dipped 3 percentage points in February, while January’s levels dropped 7 percent. According to NRCS, snowfall was consistent during February and tracked close to normal. Some areas received a modest increase in snow water equivalent, but most saw a slight decrease.

“Near normal snowpack is a good sign this time of year because at this point we are typically 80 percent complete with the normal snow accumulation season,” said Brian Domonkos, NRCS water supply specialist.

The Flathead River Basin is at 94 percent of the median. Snowpack levels are 87 percent of last year. The levels did not change last month. The Kootenai is at 93 percent of the median and dropped 3 percent last month.

The Milk River Basin had the highest snowpack levels in the state on March 1 at 119 percent of median, while the Bitterroot is the lowest in the state at 85 percent of median.

According to Domonkos, it was this point last year when the Lower Yellowstone River basins experienced an abrupt change in weather patterns, going from well above average snowpack in late February to melting in mid-March, which is as much as a month and a half early.

“Two main factors contributed to the early deficient runoff—record high temperatures and the strong warm winds that descended over the Big Horn Mountains” said Domonkos. “Thankfully, this same weather pattern does not seem to be setting up this year.”

For detailed snowpack information, click here.

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