Temperatures in Billings hit 100 degrees last month for the first time in more than two years, marking what was otherwise a mostly typical month of weather.
“It was a little bit drier and a little bit warmer than normal, but not tremendously warm or tremendously dry,” said Tom Humphreys, meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Billings office.
The average high temperature for the month was 88.6 degrees, about 1.8 degrees warmer than normal, making it Billings’ 24th warmest July in 80 years of record keeping.
When the temperature hit 100 degrees on July 24, it marked not only the highest temperature of the month but also the first time a temperature of 100 or more has been officially recorded in Billings since July 19, 2012, also hit 100.
“A little bit warmer than normal, but not too much,” Humphreys said. “It hit 100 just one time, on the 24th. That’s probably the biggest one for the month.”
The average minimum was 60.4, or about 1.6 degrees warmer than the month’s average, and the coldest temperature of the month came on July 2 with 52 degrees.
Humphreys said the other notable weather statistic in July comes from precipitation, or — more accurately — a lack of it.
“It wasn’t extraordinarily dry around here, but it was drier than usual,” he said. “It was a little under below normal, about the 15th (driest) out of 80 years.”
Total precipitation for the month was 0.34 inches, 0.98 less than the average of 0.98 inches for the month.
Miles City had the second-driest July in its 78 years of record keeping, with just 0.09 inches of precipitation, 1.55 inches less than normal.
It also saw an average temperature of 73.9 degrees, which is exactly average for July, to go with an average high and low of 89 and 58.8. Overall, it was the 30th coldest July on record.
In Livingston, the average high of 88.5 ended up being the 10th-warmest July in 67 years of record keeping while the overall average of 70 degrees was the 14th warmest.
The 0.45 inches of precipitation that fell resulted in the ninth-driest July, 1.02 inches less than normal.
To the south, Sheridan, Wyo., saw an average high of 88.3 degrees, 1.2 degrees more than normal and good enough for the 38th-warmest July on record.
Precipitation-wise, 1.01 inches fell for the month, which was 0.17 less than normal. A 36-year-old record did fall on July 21, however, when 0.48 was were recorded, breaking the old record for the day of 0.45 set in 1978.
Looking ahead into the rest of August, Humphreys said that the warmer and drier temperatures mean that there’s now an increased risk of fire, especially in the grasslands.
“It is going to get a little more active, and in the grasslands fire dangers are climbing,” he said. “The mountains had a decent snow year and they are in better shape. But in the grasslands and moving east, pockets of the east are very, very dry and August is typically a dry month and still warm.”
Adding to the possibility of fire danger, August typically sees some cold fronts coming through, bringing winds and storms, which have the potential to ignite or stoke new fires.
However, Humphreys noted that the first third of August could help lessen some fire danger if NWS forecasts hold true.
A storm system moving into Montana from Idaho and Utah on Monday and expected to hover over the region until at least Friday could bring with it enough rain to calm things down a bit.
“That energy lingers here for the better part of the week,” Humphreys said. “It’s kind of a Catch-22. It can produce more lightning, so that does produce potentially more fire starts, but it also has the potential to produce more rainfall. It’s worth watching because the potential for heavier rain is there.”
Weather service predictions for the Billings area indicate at least a 20 percent chance of showers each day through Friday, with a 50 percent chance of heavy rain until Wednesday evening.
On average, temperatures reach a high of 85.7 degrees in August in Billings while 0.75 inches of precipitation falls.