GREAT FALLS — You lived it so you don't need us to tell you a lot of weather has occurred in the last 365 days here in the Treasure State. We looked through the data to get an idea of how this year stacked up against others.
2021 started out nice and mild in central Montana, the first 20 days were in the 30s and 40s for most areas. As we continued on into February, things took a turn. In the week leading up to Valentine's Day temperatures plummeted to 40 to 50 degrees below normal as many days failed to reach 0 degrees. On February 12th, Great Fall International Airport recorded the chilliest temperatures seen all year, 33 degrees below zero. Overall, February 2021 was in the top five coldest Februaries on record and average temperatures were about 13 degrees below normal values.
Fast forward to summer, temperatures ran about 4-5 degrees above average for June and July. This is where we experienced our hottest temperature, coming in at 99 degrees on June 14th, July 1st and July 27th. A 132 degree difference between our highest and lowest temperatures this year. An impressive feat, but not record-breaking. Temperatures remained above average throughout fall, especially in November where we were over 7 degrees above normal. Average temperatures throughout the entire year ran around a degree above average.
Of course drought and wildfires were the main story in our state this year. This was a result of numerous months with insufficient precipitation. During the September to November time frame specifically, many areas in north-central Montana received virtually no precipitation. June and July were also abnormally dry, June typically being our wettest month. We only received 20% of our normal precipitation for the month of June. This, coupled with numerous high wind events, led to a fire season that extended right into December.
The severity and extent of the drought also gradually increased throughout 2021. Central Montana was in a moderate drought to start 2021 and as we head into 2022, the entirety of central Montana is now in the highest tier of drought, exceptional drought.
A few other records to note, you likely remember countless days with poor air quality and smokey skies this summer. Great Falls experienced the longest amount of time in a year with visibility reduced below 10 miles due to smoke. We also had our driest climatological fall (September 1st-November 30th) on record, with just 0.66" recorded throughout all three months. Helena also smashed its latest 70 degree temperature record reporting a high of 70 degrees on December 1st.