Large Area of Montana in Extreme to Severe Drought, Little Indication for Fire Season Severity
Recent maps released by the U.S. Drought Monitor show much of southern Montana in either severe or extreme drought. National weather service meteorologist Marty Whitmore, says the drought maps don't tell us much about the upcoming fire season.
People want to predict fire season based on the winter snow pack, but there's just not a great correlation between the two," Whitmore said. "If you have a low snow pack it can set the stage for a potentially big fire season, but the fire season will be dictated by the weather we receive between now and the end of July."
Last spring was relatively wet for western Montana, but the summer was exceptionally dry. These short term trends had a drastic effect on fire severity.
"Very short term trends kind of dictated our summer, and our fire season, and our fall last year. Not so much the longer term trends. As far as a long term drought scenario, we weren't really in it last year and we're not in it this year. Nor are we expected to turn into a long term drought.
So far in western Montana, only a few counties are listed as abnormally dry. All of those counties are south of Missoula.