It's February and there's no snow on the ground. What does this dry winter season mean for us?
We spoke with Meteorologist, Todd Chambers, of the National Weather Service and he said in the 82 years they've been collecting data in Billings, this is the 15th driest January and February.
Chambers said we're coming out of a very strong El Nino pattern and heading towards more neutral conditions as we go into the spring and summer. He said, looking back, they saw a very consistent analog in 1995, comparable to what we're experiencing right now, in terms of moisture and temperature. In March 1995, Billings turned a corner and became really wet between March and August, bringing the area 13" of precipitation, where we would normally see about 9" during that time period.
"Just because we're dry right now doesn't mean that's gonna continue into the future. Things can change pretty quickly in the Northern Rockies," said Chambers.
He also mentions, while 1995 brought very wet conditions after a dry season, it doesn't mean that's necessarily what we'll see this year. It just means patterns can change, especially with El Nino diminishing.
To go along with the dry winter we've been experiencing the NWS said the grass has really dried up in the last 30 to 45 days, with warmer temperatures and gusty winds enhancing fire danger. Chambers said we'll continue to see this threat until we get in more of a cool/wet pattern and the grass starts to green back up.
"Once we get into April, regardless if whether we get a whole lot of rain or not, we'll see those grasses green up, and that will be the thing that diminishes the fire potential for this late winter and very early spring," said Chambers, adding while this is the 6th warmest period from January-February it is still too early to predict what kind of fire season we'll see.