MTPR

Montana's Snowpack Is The Best In The West For Now

Jan 8, 2018

Montana’s first winter snowpack report is out and so far, so very good. There’s still plenty of winter ahead of us, but the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bozeman says Montana’s snowpack is off to a great start.

“Right now we pretty much have the best snowpack totals across the western United States, which is always great to hear.”

That’s NRCS Water Supply Specialist Lucas Zukiewicz. He says most of Montana’s river basins have near to above-normal snowpack for early January.

“The storms that we had during the first three weeks of November and the last two weeks of December left our snowpack above normal for January first. It’s a good start for us," Zukiewicz says. "We’re maybe a little bit less than halfway through our snow accumulation season west of the divide, and east of the divide, generally the spring months are a bit bigger, but right now we’re off to a really good start. Hopefully we see a similar pattern play out through this spring.”

Think of mountain snowpack as the state’s biggest reservoir. The water is held in the snow until it melts and feeds Montana’s rivers in the spring and summer. So far, the statewide snow water equivalent is 130-percent of normal. A few locations in the Upper Blackfoot River and Flathead River Basins last month reported the second-highest increase in snow water equivalent in 35 years.

Montana Snowtel Current Snow Water Equivalent % Of Normal.
Credit USDA NRCS

"We had some pretty large increases during the last two weeks; up to about 11 inches of snow water equivalent for some of our high-elevation sites. That’s a lot of water to add to the snowpack at one time, "Zukiewicz says. "That’s really good. It can help us make up a lot of ground when we see those really progressive storm systems like that.”

There are a few areas where the snowpack is lagging a little behind the rest of Montana. For example, the northern part of Glacier National Park is slightly below normal. Same for the Red Rocks River Basin south of Dillon.

“But these are all areas where one or two storms can really bring that right back to normal. There’s plenty of room for it to come back.”

Zukiewicz says consistent snowfall from here on out would put Montana in a great position for spring and summer.

The next snowpack report will be released February 1.