That weather could help snowpack, which is just below normal in the Upper Yellowstone River basin, after above average snowfall in January.
Basin-wide, snowpack totals are 98 percent of normal, with some areas significantly lagging behind normal. The Yellowstone River at Livingston is 93 percent of normal, and the Clark’s Fork is 83 percent of normal, with some areas in Cooke City and Yellowstone National Park seeing as low as 54 percent of the normal snowfall.
Farther north, the Shields, Boulder and Stillwater are above normal. The Shields River is at 113 percent of average Feb. 1 snowpack. Red Lodge has 156 percent of its average snowpack, even higher than it was last winter.
“Based on long-term climate trends we typically see a dip in snowfall during the month of February in this region, but last year proved that anything can happen,” the Montana Water Supply Outlook Report for Feb. 1 published by the NRCS said. “For now, most of the greater river basin is off to a good start snowpack-wise and spring precipitation can make up for the deficits we have in some of the sub-basins.”
Late January storms helped provide much of the snow.
“The late month storms really helped some of the towns in southern Montana where tourism from snowmobiling is critical to the local economies,” said Lucas Zukiewicz, NRCS hydrologist for Montana, in a news release. “The snowpack in both Cooke City and West Yellowstone was the lowest it’s been in quite a few years in mid-January, and news gets out.”
Fortunately, Zukiewicz said, the storms helped these areas to recover some by Feb. 1, although snowpack remains below normal.
“Almost all basins east of the Divide have improved snowpack percentages from January 1, but some regions remain below normal for snowpack on February 1,” he said.
January temperatures were above average, despite never entering an El Nino, Palmquist said.
While much of February has been below average, long-range forecasts project that trend to continue through the February-April time period, Palmquist said.
“That’s something we’ll be keeping an eye on,” Zukiewicz said. “Early runoff doesn’t benefit anyone, so hopefully spring is cooler than anticipated.”
SOURCE: Livingston Enterprise, February 7, 2019, Author: Johnathan Hettinger Staff Writer