Winter is coming

NOAA provides winter outlook to help preparation for the cold

The final answer is in, and it looks like Montana is in for another cold and wet winter. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released its winter outlook (from December to February) for the nation, and Montana is expected to have a wetter and colder winter. Much of that has to do with La Nina — an extended period of time where warmer water is pooling up in the Pacific Ocean. 

For south-central Montana, it could be a wetter winter by more than 40 percent of what it was last year. The only other part of the country that could see that is the far eastern part of the Midwest, such as Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and parts of Kentucky. 

For the South, it’s going to be about 33 to 50 percent drier this winter, with the driest parts coming in Florida. 

Tom Frieders, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Billings, said because of the La Nina and some of the polar weather north of Montana in Canada and even as far as the Arctic Circle, a combination of the two events will create more-than-usual precipitation.

“What happens when you adjust those temperatures in the ocean waters, it overall impacts the weather patterns across the U.S. actually,” Frieders said. “What that’s going to trend for us is an active pattern of systems coming in off the Pacific and an interaction with a polar jet coming in from out of the north.”

Drought will still be a critical facto for parts of the Northern Rockies and especially for Montanans. Despite possible surge in precipitation, drought will likely persist in the Montana area. 

The other important aspect to the NOAA winter outlook is it’s not an accurate predictor of snowfall accumulation, but rather an identifier for the climate in the coming months.

As far as the temperature goes in Big Timber, it actually might be about average, for what it’s worth.

For more of this story, pick up a copy of this week’s Big Timber Pioneer on newsstands now, or subscribe online at

PHOTO CAPTION: The map above shows the winter outlook of precipitation for the United States. The weather outlook will be updated again on Nov. 16. (Photo from NOAA weather outlook)




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