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News Release

January 1 Snowpack Currently Below Average

Brian Domonkos


Bozeman--Montana statewide mountain snowpack is below average and below last year, according to Jan. 1 reporting from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Jan. 1 represents about 45 percent of the expected seasonal snowfall, so more than half of the snowfall season remains. “Although La Nina like temperatures exist in the Pacific Ocean, weather patterns indicative of La Nina, which are typically wetter and colder than average, have been rare,” said , NRCS snow water supply specialist.

Generally, precipitation in Montana started off well in October, predominately in the form of rain, yielding to drier conditions in November and even drier during December. The early season rain helped wet soils dehydrated from the summer dry spell and soaked soils to near levels experienced in October 2010.

According to NRCS data, current overall conditions compare closely with the start of the water year two seasons ago, which remained dry across the region until early spring 2010 when wetter than average conditions prevailed. “In order to recover from the current snowpack deficit, winter precipitation would need to be near 120 percent of average prior to spring runoff,” Domonkos said. Last season snowfall amounted to 170 percent of average through the end of the snowpack season due to above average precipitation and below average temperatures extending into early June.

Southwest Montana snowpack has fared the worst up to this point, below 80 percent, while the Yellowstone River Basin has several sub-basins, most particularly in the Lower Yellowstone River Basins, above 100 percent of average.

Snow Water Content
River Basin Percent of Average Last Year Percent of Average
Columbia 80 106
Kootenai 88 101
Flathead 69 111
Upper Clark Fork 82 110
Bitterroot 90 94
Lower Clark Fork 90 112
Missouri 80 113
Missouri Headwaters 77 117
-- Jefferson 78 110
-- Madison 73 121
-- Gallatin 77 116
Missouri Mainstem 93 108
-- Headwaters Mainstem 105 106
-- Smith-Judith-Musselshell 89 117
-- Sun-Teton-Marias 81 90
-- Milk (Bearpaw Mtns) 50 134
St. Mary 78 94
St. Mary & Milk 76 103
Yellowstone 97 114
Upper Yellowstone 90 121
Lower Yellowstone 103 107
State-Wide 82 112

For detailed basin snowpack information, go to:

Streamflow prospects are slightly more optimistic with more than half of the snowpack accumulation season remaining. Still, Domonkos said that streamflow forecasts are projected to be below average and, thus, water managers need to pay particular attention to their local area and plan for possible low streamflows in the event that mountain precipitation continues to be poor.

Below are the River Basin streamflow forecasts for the period April 1 through July 31. These forecasts assume near normal moisture and runoff conditions January through July.

Streamflow Forecasts
River Basin April to July this Year Percent of Average April to July Last Year Percent of Average
Columbia 84 104
-- Kootenai 79 94
-- Flathead 83 116
-- Upper Clark Fork 88 99
-- Bitterroot 91 95
-- Lower Clark Fork 82 99
Missouri 81 99
-- Jefferson 71 106
-- Madison 83 111
-- Gallatin 89 100
-- Missouri Mainstem 80 103
-- Smith-Judith-Musselshell 77 97
-- Sun-Teton-Marias 93 82
-- Milk 79 112
St. Mary 97 98
Yellowstone 99 97
-- Upper Yellowstone 90 107
-- Lower Yellowstone 107 86
State-Wide 86 101

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

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

For detailed basin streamflow forecast information go to:

Provisional Water Supply Forecasts (TXT; 24 KB)


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