Posted: Jul 24, 2012 12:08 PM
Updated: Jul 24, 2012 12:08 PM
This drought analysis is the compilation of reports from various state, regional, and national agencies:
As of July 17th, 2012 just over one-third of Montana was classified in some stage of drought on the National Drought Monitor. This area extends across Southern Montana and portions of Central Montana. Of the 36 percent of the state in drought, just under 17 percent is in the severe drought category, and another 19 percent is in the moderate drought category. Of the remaining two-thirds of Montana, 29 percent falls in the abnormally dry category. For those areas currently experiencing drought conditions, the latest Drought Outlook indicates drought conditions will persist through at least October 2012.
Stillwater (Columbus) and Yellowstone (Billings) Counties have declared drought disasters. Livestock feed on pasture has been reduced by about 50 percent. Dry land hay production has suffered losses of about 85 percent. Dry land spring wheat is not expected to make a harvestable crop.
Statewide, soil moisture conditions are the driest since 2007 with some areas having the driest soil since their records began in 2006. Across South Central and Southeast Montana, calculated soil moisture departures are between 1.50 and 2.25 inches below normal.
As of July 16, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service in Montana reported topsoil moisture ranked as either adequate or surplus was 26 percent with the 5 year average being 56 percent. Subsoil moisture was 37 percent adequate or surplus compared to the 5 year average of 62 percent.
The Montana Department Of Natural Resources And Conservation reports total number of fires to date to be 138 with a total of 257,244 acres being burned. The National Interagency Coordination Center indicates much of the southern half of Montana has an above normal significant wildland fire potential through October, 2012. Significant Fire Potential is defined as the likelihood that a wildland fire event will require additional resources be brought in from outside the area in which the fire situation starts.
Recent high temperatures prompted Belgrade officials to place restrictions on water use for irrigation purposes, including watering of lawns. Daily water use was nearly double that for this same time in 2011.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has initiated various levels of fire restrictions at parks and campsites, particularly across Southern and Central Montana. These restrictions vary from prohibiting smoking and the use fires or campfires to prohibiting the use of combustion engines or motorized vehicles.
This is the driest water year to date for Montana as a whole since 2004. For the calendar year, this is the driest year on record for Billings, the second driest for Miles City and the sixth driest for Dillon. Since the beginning of April, precipitation across southern Montana and much of Montana west of the divide has been less than 60 percent of normal with some areas reporting 20 to 40 percent of normal. This window of time is climatologically the period of greatest precipitation for much of Montana, and critical for agricultural success in areas without irrigation. From this point forward, the monthly average precipitation decreases into the winter months.
During this same April through mid-July period, daytime high temperatures across south central and southeast Montana have averaged 2 to 6 degrees above normal with isolated areas averaging 6 to 8 degrees above normal. During the last 30 days, afternoon high temperatures have averaged 4 to 8 degrees above normal across much of Montana, and have average 8 to 10 degrees or more above average over South Central and Southeast Montana. Three locations have hit 106 degrees during the first two weeks of July, and there has been only one day when high temperatures averaged below normal. For the calendar year, this is the third warmest year for Billings and second warmest for Miles City.
As the state remains under the influence of a large high pressure ridge, temperatures for the next 7 days will continue to run near to above seasonal averages with afternoon high temperatures continuing to push into the lower to mid 90s across much of the state. Little precipitation is expected outside of localized rain associated with thunderstorms.
The outlook for Montana through August shows better chances for the warm trend to continue with a 50 to 60 percent chance of above normal temperatures through the month. Precipitation trends during this same period are less certain with the outlook calling for equal chances for above, below or near normal precipitation.
As we move into the autumn months, a weak El Nino event is likely to occur. The outlook shows no strong trends in any direction with equal chances for above, below or near normal temperatures and precipitation during the September through November period.