After a cool, wet May, there is an increased potential for above average temperatures in June, according to the National Weather Service in Billings.

While June could be warmer than average, there is an equal chance of above, below or near normal precipitation for the month. 

The three-month weather outlook in the NWS Billings coverage area shows temperatures holding near normal and a likelihood for above normal precipitation. 

Those trends are largely beneficial in reducing wildfire potential, but there are caveats. 

"The concern we have for fire season this year is we've been fairly wet, so we've had a chance for all this grass to grow." said Todd Chambers, an NWS Billings meteorologist. If the region receives below normal precipitation, then that excess grass becomes increasingly receptive to fire, especially with warmer temperatures.

"Those conditions can change pretty fast with grasses. It doesn't take long for them to dry out," Chambers said. Mountain snow pack in the area is still relatively high, giving higher elevation vegetation, particularly trees, more moisture later into the summer.

The National Interagency Fire Center's Wildfire Potential Outlook Report published June 1 shows normal fire potential for the entire state of Montana in the month of June. 

In east-central Montana and North Dakota, below average temperatures this spring have limited "evaporative moisture loss, and soil moisture deficits are only slightly dry. Thus, even in these areas fine fuels and live fuels are still green, and will likely remain so moving into at least the first half of June," according to the NIFC fire potential report.

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"Since green up has occurred east of the Continental Divide, fire potential there will remain typically low in the Plains region until at least the middle to end of June," the report says. 

In Billings the average May temperature of 53.4 was 2.2 degrees below average. Miles City saw its coldest May on record. The town's average daily temperature of 50.4 was 5.5 degrees below normal. Sheridan, Wyoming, saw its third coldest May on record, with an average daily temperature of 48.1, a departure of 4.4 degrees from the typical monthly average. In Livingston, the average temperature of 48.3 was the 10th coldest on record. 

Some of the most significant regional precipitation was reported in Sheridan, according to NWS Billings. Sheridan was 3.99 inches above its average monthly precipitation total. Of that precipitation, 1.52 inches fell on May 27, setting a daily record. It was the fourth wettest May in Sheridan for years which NWS Billings has available records. The total precipitation for the month was 6.34 inches. 

In Billings, the total monthly precipitation of 2.41 inches was .23 inches above average. The city only received .4 inches of snow, which is 1.6 inches below average. 

Explaining the broader meteorological picture for May, Chambers described a deep trough of low pressure over Western portions of the United States giving way to cold air and precipitation. On the East Coast, a high pressure ridge produced, hotter, dryer temperatures. 

"And in between those systems is the Great Plains," Chambers said. "That's where you saw the persistence of day after day of strong thunderstorms and all that flooding going on. In between the low pressure trough in the West and that high pressure trough in the East." 

When regional pressure patterns begin to settle, the atmosphere is often slow to disrupt those patterns. 

"As we go into the first part of June, we've kind of broken that pattern now and we're starting to see patterns moving faster from west to east," Chamber said. "Which is typical as we go into summer." 

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