Weather Wise: Surprising winter totals for parts of Montana

Posted at 6:53 PM, Mar 04, 2024

Even though an arctic airmass is draped over the state and there's a fresh blanket of snow on the ground, meteorological winter ended on the final day of February. In the weather world, the winter months are December, January and February. This winter was a strange one, that's for sure, but looking at the numbers and some things might be a bit of a surprise.

Overall, temperatures were above average for most locations by 2-3 degrees. The highest departure was across northeast Montana where Glasgow was 7 degrees above normal for winter. Digging deeper into the numbers, most of Montana was nearly 10 degrees above normal for December when a stagnant ridge of high pressure produced warm temperatures and very little precipitation.

But then January happened and a record-shattering arctic airmass blasted through the state. Along with unprecedented cold came a little moisture. There was a thaw toward the end of the month, but most of Montana was 4 to 5 degrees below normal with some areas like Helena and Havre seeing above-normal precipitation and some areas like Lewistown, Glasgow and Cut Bank seeing below-average precipitation.

The final month of meteorological winter, February, was exactly what the state needed. While temperatures were a degree or two above normal, most all of Montana has well above normal precipitation with 2 to 3 times what typically falls. Helena had four times its normal precipitation, making February 2024 its wettest February ever on record.

It was a weird winter with an extremely warm and dry start through December, a record-breaking arctic airmass in January, and a very wet February that has left most of Montana a few degrees above normal with above-normal precipitation. While mountain snowpack is still below normal, most of that can be attributed to the bone-dry start to the season.