Weather Wise: Winter is coming... to Montana

Posted at 6:06 PM, Oct 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-16 20:39:59-04

Winter is Montana.

An El Niño pattern has developed in the equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean. This warming of the surface water can have an impact on global weather. For the United States and Montana, a "typical" El Niño produces a stronger southern branch of the jet stream with more wet and cool weather south, but a weaker northern branch of the jet stream leaves Montana and the Pacific Northwest warmer and drier than normal.

The National Weather Service's winter forecast supports these warmer and drier conditions across Montana and the northern tier of the country. The weather channel follows this textbook El Niño pattern too.

Other long-range forecasts vary. The Farmer's Almanac is different for Montana and the Pacific Northwest with cold, average snow conditions. The old farmer's almanac predicts a winter wonderland with cold and snowy conditions across most of the country. Accuweather suggests warmer and drier for Montana and much of the north.

Some variation but overall more forecasts follow the typical El Niño which would be warmer and drier for Montana.

However, the last several winters have been anything but typical. La Nina dominated the last 3 winters which should have left Montana colder and snowier than normal. There were cold and snowy stretches, but were not typical la nina - colder and snowier than normal. Last winter's record-breaking snow for California, Nevada and Utah was not typical for a La Nina and was not predicted correctly by anyone. In fact, long-range seasonal forecasts have been more wrong than right recently.

There are more factors than just La Nina or El Niño, and the simple fact is forecasting months out is a difficult and challenging science, let alone forecasting for this upcoming weekend.

My thoughts are this winter will have A-typical El Niño results here in Montana, and when all is said and done there will be very average temperatures and average snowfall, and a whole lot of hubbub about nothing.