Western Montana  had lots of snow in the high country last winter with the La Nina pattern that dominated the northwest, but the opposite is expected for this winter.

Meteorologist Bob Nester with the National Weather Service office in Missoula said on Friday that western Montana can expect an El Nino pattern this winter.

“Our Climate Prediction Center does have an El Nino watch out for this winter,” said Nester. “It’s looking favorable for an El Nino pattern, they’re saying a 70 percent probability, which means that it’s generally opposite of what we have with a La Nina winter. We’ll get a generally ‘ridging pattern’ throughout the course of the winter, and that means lower than normal precipitation, and warmer than normal temperatures. The caveat with ridging is that we’re liable to have more inversions over the valleys which will keep temperatures lower.”

Nester said this is a regional forecast, and that western Montana can still expect to see some Arctic fronts move through the area with snow and colder temperatures.

“However, during an El Nino winter we do expect less than normal snowfall,” he said. “In the over 18 years that I’ve been here, we do have data that confirms less than normal precipitation with an El Nino pattern.”

Last winter’s heavy mountain snow pack led to flooding in Montana, so much so that President Trump released disaster funds for many Montana counties that suffered severe flooding, although not for Missoula.

FEMA confirmed on Thursday that emergency funding was released to Blaine, Hill, Liberty, Pondera, Toole, and Valley counties.

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