MISSOULA, Mont. - After a cold and cloudy Sunday, Monday saw a return to warm afternoons and sunny skies. Even with a fresh shot of cold air, temperatures in Missoula reached into the upper 30s.
At Caras Park in Missoula people were jogging, walking their dogs, riding the carousel, and even surfing Brennan's Wave. Downstream from the wave a fisherman braved the cold water.
Fishing, and fly-fishing in particular, is a beneficiary of the warm temperatures. At the Missoulian Angler Fly Shop on Higgins Avenue, employees noticed a spike in sales over the last three weeks. It lines up pretty well with the warm conditions.
Missoula has been one of the hot spots west of the Continental Divide with 13 days above 40 degrees this month. 50-degree temperatures were common in the Bitterroot Valley. It's been warmer overall in southwest Montana, with Bozeman having 14 days above 40 and Butte at 7 degrees above average for the month.
The snowpack is slightly below average in the Bitterroot and Missoula areas and has decreased over the course of the month by 5 to 10 percent.
Snowpack in this area even a little bit below average is a concern after an extremely dry summer. While the short-term forecast calls for more snow, it's the long term health of the snowpack, over the next 2 to 3 months, which will determine how dry next summer will be.
Another long period of warm temperatures during this time may further weaken the snowpack before spring thaw.