I’ve experienced at least 15 Montana springs in my lifetime, and I honestly don’t think I have seen a nicer April than the one we have had this year.

After the seemingly endless rainstorm that took up most of spring 2011, I prepared for the worst this year. I resisted the urge to “de-winterize” my closet, knowing that two days later I would probably find myself digging through storage bins in search of a heavy wool sweater.

Instead, last weekend I found myself digging through storage bins in search of shorts and a tank top. Like many locals, I took advantage of the warm weather by hitting some of my favorite trails. As I ran up the main path at the Rattlesnake trailhead — flushed and sweating profusely — I couldn’t help but feel like I had skipped over a few months and landed smack dab in the middle of July. I mean, when has it ever been over 80 degrees in the middle of April?

Although most of us aren’t complaining, many of us are wondering what is causing this early spate of summerlike temperatures. According to an extended forecast report from the National Weather Service, the warm, dry conditions we’ve been experiencing are the result of a weakening La Nina weather pattern. La Nina generally creates cool, wet conditions in the Northwest.

The transition from La Nina conditions to neutral conditions over the course of the next month or so could lead to less-than-average rainfall through the month of May, but temperatures are expected to eventually drop back to normal — or possibly even below normal — levels.

So, get out there and enjoy the warm weather while you can. But, you might not want to put away that winter coat just yet — this is Montana, after all!

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.