Early (Premature?) Winter Snowpack and Season Water Conditions Outlook

Early (Premature?) Winter Snowpack and Season Water Conditions Outlook

What do they say about how many words a picture is worth? This is a view from in front of my driveway on December 20, 2018. What don’t you see? Snow, except up in the mountains.

dry yard in December in Montana
A view from my front yard illustrative of our nonexistent recent snow.

It is exceptionally rare for Livingston to lack complete snow cover this late into the winter. While October and November were cold and snowy, December has thus far been generally dry, warm, and windy. This has melted virtually all snow below about the 6000-foot level. Gardiner and points south got a little a couple nights ago, but it has now mostly melted, as well. Even Bridger Bowl, my ski hill near Bozeman, has only received a trace in the past week.

In addition to the short-term (aka ‘weather’) conditions, medium-range outlooks through the winter of 2018-2019 and spring 2019 (aka edging into ‘climate’) suggest warmer than normal and normal to dry conditions as far as the eye can see. This is generally expected during El Nino winters, which we are in, and in a more general sense seems pretty common after a couple normal to wet years, with both 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 being cold and wet winters.

Yes, there will be snow, and probably a lot of it from time to time, but if conditions hold, we’re likely to be looking at an early and light spring melt followed by an early end to the spring melt (June 15-25 rather than July 1-10) and low water conditions during the core July through September 2019 fishing season. I’ll give much more detailed information on what this entails later in the winter and spring, but I wanted to make a quick post about where we stand right now. Stay tuned…

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