BOZEMAN - A year ago there was no drought conditions in Montana but a year later we have extreme drought in far eastern Montana and growing moderate drought conditions over SW Montana.
The Montana Drought Advisory committee updated their first monthly drought update for Montana last week and reported about 14% of Montana is currently rated extreme, 31% of Montana is rated severe, 63% of Montana is rated moderate.
The last 5 to 7 months have been drier than normal across most of the western U.S. and one of the driest local areas in SW Montana is Beaverhead county and the Dillon area. National Weather Service Hydrologist Arin Peters from Great Falls reports that the Dillon area finally surpassed 6" of moisture, however, it took 383 days to hit that 6" mark and that is ranked the 2nd longest stretch on record. New data for the month of April shows Dillon with just under a quarter of an inch and that is ranked the 6th driest April on record. Looking at the water year to date (Oct. 1st - Apr. 30th) Dillon has just a little more than three quarters of an inch and that is ranked the #1 driest on record for that time period.
Lucas Zukiewicz from the NRCS reported that snowpack conditions across most of Montana was near normal with a few exceptions and despite periodic warm ups in April the higher mountain snowpack was holding steady with very little melting, however, the lower valley and foothill snowpack is pretty much gone. We will hear from the NRCS in early May with an update on snowpack and stream flows outlook.
North Dakota is under widespread extreme drought conditions and that state was declared as a drought disaster from the USDA. The SW U.S. is experiencing a mega-drought with widespread exceptional drought conditions that has been ongoing for far too long.
May and June are the two wettest months on record for Montana and most reporting sites should see over 2" to 3" of moisture per month. If the current below normal precipitation trend continues through June and we head into the hot and dry months of July and August drought conditions will become more devastating over SW Montana. So pray for rain.