Billings weather in August was more normal than it felt, but summer as a whole was the second-driest and fourth-warmest on record.
The only time the months of June, July and August have been drier was 1988, said Tom Frieders, meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Billings. During that three-month period, just .59 inches of rain fell.
In that parched season 24 years ago, half of Yellowstone National Park was burned by fire.
This summer, total rainfall in Billings for the three months was .93 inches. In a normal year, June alone would have collected 2.21 inches. Just .30 inches of rain fell in August — .39 inches less than normal. It ranked as the 16th-driest August since recordkeeping began at Billings Logan International Airport in 1934.
Mean temperature for the summer of 2012 was 73.7 degrees, which is 3.9 degrees warmer than average. For August, the mean temperature was 73.9 degrees, or 2 degrees warmer than normal.
“August ended up not being too extreme,” Frieders said.
Taken in its entirety, though, the summer was much more prone to extremes.
“Usually we have 29 days with temperatures above 90,” he said. “This summer we counted 47.”
August bowed out with record heat on Aug. 28 at 99 degrees and Aug. 29 with 97 degrees, which tied the record set in 2005.
Billings and Miles City seemed to vie for bragging rights to the most miserable summer weather, and more often than not the Cowboy Capital won.
Average summer temperature in Miles City from June through August was 75.4 degrees, or 4.5 degrees hotter than normal. But Miles City, with 1.97 inches of precipitation, had more than double the rainfall Billings recorded. August was a wet month there, comparatively. Rainfall measured .82 inches, just .04 inches away from normal.
Miles City boasted some spectacular heat, hitting 111 degrees in June.
Both Miles City and Billings are way above normal for heat this year, and are scraping the bottom of the record books for precipitation.
Since Jan. 1, Billings has received just 5.08 inches of precipitation, about half of what it normally gets. To date, 2012 ranks as the driest year on record here. It managed to lower the dry bar by an inch from the previous record of 6.07 inches set in 1988.
Miles City has measured just 4.60 inches in its precipitation gauge this year, about 5.12 inches less than normal.
Mean temperature for the year in Billings is 54.2 degrees, or 3.4 degrees warmer than normal. At Miles City, the mean for 2012 so far is 54.2, which is 5.1 degrees warmer than usual.
While Montana rivers held their own through July, August saw some steep drops in water levels. The Yellowstone on Thursday measured just 2.33 feet as it flowed by the Billings gauge.
Volume was 2,280 cubic feet per second. Mean volume for that date is 3,990 cfs.
“The river is low, but not below what we’ve seen,” said Mike Rubich, water production superintendent for the city. “It’s not extreme.”
The lowest it’s been on Aug. 30 in 83 years of recordkeeping is 1,140 cfs in 2001.
Water supply is not a problem in the city, even with irrigation in full swing, Rubich said.
Lawn watering has been a good thing in this year of fire, he said.
“We can be thankful that we’re a little sea of green in a very brown landscape,” he said.