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News Release

February Montana Snowpack Falls Slightly from Last Month

Brian Domonkos

Bozeman--Snowpack finished January down slightly, 96 percent of median compared to 103 percent of median on Jan. 1, according to snow survey data from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Two major storm events provided the bulk of the moisture during the month of January, but only produced 85 percent of median snowfall for the month. The Headwaters of the Missouri and the combined St. Mary and Milk River basins hold the best snowpack of the major basins in the state at 103 percent of median. The Yaak, Beaverhead, and Upper Gallatin (above Gallatin Gateway) river basins maintain the best snowpacks of all sub-watersheds in the state at 113 percent of median or better.

The orographic effect of the Bridger Mountain range, better known locally as the “Bridger Cloud,” produced large amounts of snowfall from a late January storm. Nearly two inches of snow water equivalent were measured at the two SNOTEL sites in the Bridger Mountains from the three-day storm. This amounted to a 23 percent increase in snowpack over the three-day period.

“Although other basins across the state benefited greatly from this same storm, snowfall yields were not as significant,” said , NRCS water supply specialist. “Despite this and a smaller weather event earlier in the month, conditions were generally quite dry last month allowing snowpack to make increases in only two basins, the Headwaters Mainstem near Helena and in the combined Smith-Judith-Musselshell.”

Typically on February 1, nearly 65 percent of the average seasonal snowpack has accumulated, meaning approximately one third of the snowfall season remains.

Snow Water Content
River Basin Percent of Median Last Year Percent of Median January Percent Change
Columbia 92 103 -8
Kootenai, Montana 97 105 -17
Flathead, Montana 93 94 -7
Upper Clark Fork 93 114 0
Bitterroot 86 111 -4
Lower Clark Fork 89 112 -7
Missouri 99 95 -4
Missouri Headwaters 103 89 -7
 - Jefferson 102 96 -7
 - Madison 102 86 -5
 - Gallatin 106 80 -9
Missouri Mainstem 89 110 +1
 - Headwaters Mainstem 96 123 +2
 - Smith-Judith-Musselshell 97 103 +1
 - Sun-Teton-Marias 77 110 -1
 - Milk (Bearpaw Mountains) 106 53 +46
St. Mary 102 105 -9
St. Mary and Milk 103 101 -6
Yellowstone 91 109 -8
 - Upper Yellowstone 98 103 -8
 - Lower Yellowstone 86 114 -7
Statewide 96 101 -7

If you encounter any problems with the files provided on this page, please contact Brian Domonkos at .

For detailed snowpack information go to:
Basin-Wide Snowpack Summary (TXT; 64 KB)

“As usual, streamflow forecasts are a close reflection of the snowpack in their respective basins,” Domonkos said. “Keep in mind that each basin has different runoff characteristics and some basins’ forecast values vary more than others.” He said some forecasts have better skill than others as indicated in the detailed basin streamflow forecast. Skill measurements quantify how much better a forecast is than chance. The spread from the maximum to the minimum in the forecast table is evidence of skill for each basin’s forecast.

For detailed basin streamflow forecast information go to:
Provisional Water Supply Forecasts (TXT; 24 KB)

Below are the averaged river basin streamflow forecasts for the period April 1 through July 31. These forecasts assume near normal moisture and runoff conditions April through July.

Streamflow Forecasts
River Basin April to July this Year Percent of Average April to July Last Year Percent of Average
Columbia 98 92
-- Kootenai 102 86
-- Flathead 103 89
-- Upper Clark Fork 97 98
-- Bitterroot 88 99
-- Lower Clark Fork 90 87
Missouri 94 84
-- Jefferson 92 72
-- Madison 96 83
-- Gallatin 96 85
-- Missouri Mainstem 94 82
-- Smith-Judith-Musselshell 91 83
-- Sun-Teton-Marias 95 101
-- Milk 105 90
St. Mary 101 106
Yellowstone 85 98
-- Upper Yellowstone 91 91
-- Lower Yellowstone 79 105
Statewide 94 91

NOTE: The "April-July Last Year Percent of Average" column above is what was forecast last year, NOT what actually occurred.


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