El Nino Impacts Montana Winters

excellent images and video from NOAAclimate.gov

We’ been reading all summer that a potentially big El Nino event could impact North America this coming winter. It looks as though that forecast will prove correct. The Pacific is warming rapidly creating conditions that could create the strongest El Nino event on record:

“The forecast for us is to be anywhere from 2 to 2.5 degrees (Celsius) above normal. What that translates to is one of the strongest El Niño’s experienced since we’ve been keeping records dating 50 to 100 years ago.”
-Bob Nester, NWS

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT NPR

According to Nester, when this happens Montana always receives 75-90% less snowpack than average. Bummer.

“Statistically for example in Missoula, anytime we’ve had a moderate to strong El Niño, snowfall has been anywhere from 75 percent of normal or less. Each time.”
-Bob Nester, NWS

Here’s an excellent video from the NOAA explaining how El Nino works:

Of course this news bums us out considerably. Drastic drought conditions will have an impact on our fly fishing conditions for 2016. And while low water sucks for both fish and fishermen, when combined with warmer than average weather, it can damage the resource.

We’re not all fly fishing nerds around here. Many of spend the winter searching for fresh lines at our local ski areas. No snow means no skiing. No boarding. No backcountry.

The only bright side is that we may have an exceptional winter (Nov-Apr) fishing season. We’re out there regardless, but you may be as well if things are warm and dry.

The impacts I mention above are all about recreating. But El Nino can have huge financial impacts as well, especially in a state like Montana that relies heavily on agriculture to drive local and regional economies.

2016 Fishing

How does this affect your 2016 plans for fishing in Montana? It really doesn’t. I always stress that air temperatures can often have a greater impact on the quality of your fishing. The water can be really low, but if it remains cool, both fish and fisherman remain happy.

For example, if everyone who reads this decides to move their fishing trip to June, the rivers will be empty in August. If the weather is cool, fishing in August could be stellar. And you could be the only one on the river!

I Like to gamble, and the above scenario would intrigue me. realistically, you should consider the weather forecast, although it does depend on where you fish. Drought conditions could mean tough August fishing on a SW Montana Freestone, OK fishing on the Missouri and Bighorn Rivers, and great fishing on the Kootenai in NW Montana.

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