After the winter of 2018-2019, when the snow just fell and fell and fell some more, especially in February, western Montana residents are understandably curious about the long range forecast for the upcoming winter.

First, the Old Farmers Almanac.

‘Winter temperatures will be above normal, on average, in the north and below average in central and southern portions of the region, with the coldest periods in mid- to late December and early January and from late January through the first half of February. Precipitation and snowfall will be above normal, with the snowiest periods in mid- to late December, early and late January, early February, and early and late March.’

Meteorologist Alex Lukinbeal at the National Weather Service Office in Missoula provided a similar outlook.

“The Climate Prediction Center is giving us near equal odds of normal precipitation and slightly above normal temperatures,” said Lukinbeal. “We will not be seeing another El Nino winter this year. Instead, we’re going to be shifting into a neutral ocean temperature regime in the Eastern Pacific, so the main picture as far as we can expect right now will be average precipitation and maybe slightly above normal temperatures.”

Lukinbeal said we probably won’t see a repeat performance of last February.

“We definitely got slammed,” he said. “If memory serves me correctly, we had the second snowiest February on record in Missoula, so we had all that snow on the ground late into the winter and it just lingered through the early spring.”

Lukinbeal also provided an estimate of the total amount of snow that will fall in the Missoula and Bitterroot areas.

“Odds right now are showing average snowfall,” he said. “So, that would put us in Missoula from October through the early spring we’ll be seeing about 40 inches of snowfall. Then, a little further north up in the Kalispell area they typically see generally about 60 inches of snowfall in a year, so across all the valley locations of western Montana we’re looking at that 30 to 60 inch range total, just depending on where you are.”

Naturally, Lukinbeal said there would be cold snaps and winter storms throughout the area which are normal for a western Montana winter.