Cool April weather improves Montana's mountain snowpack

Montana State News Bureau

Following several dry months, cool temperatures and precipitation in April increased snowpack percentages in all of Montana’s major river basins.

Prior to April, northwest Montana had been the largest recipient of precipitation this water year, with much of the remainder of the state well below normal.

“Weather patterns shifted last month, and April precipitation was slightly below normal in northwest Montana but well above normal in southcentral and southeast Montana,” said USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service hydrologist Eric Larson.

The cool and wet weather last month slowed snowmelt that was initiated in March and many mid-elevation SNOTEL sites which normally melt significantly in April now have an above normal May 1 snowpack. The only exception is the Milk River basin, which doesn’t have any snow remaining at the one SNOTEL site in the Bears Paw Mountains near Havre.

Larson urged some caution about optimism about the report. Snowpack percentages indicate how conditions compare to previous years for a given date, but these percentages can be misleading early and late in the water year, he said.

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