After a year of weather anomalies, October was a strangely normal month.
Precipitation, at 1.14 inches, was just .04 inch off average, while snowfall (4.1 inches) was right on the money. The mean temperature was 56.1 degrees, about 2.2 degrees cooler than normal.
For the two months remaining in the year, however, it will take a lot of extra moisture and subnormal temperatures to avoid being the driest, warmest year in 78 years of recordkeeping at Billings Logan International Airport.
So far in 2012, just 6.22 inches of precipitation has fallen. That’s slightly less than half of the 12.55 inches Billings would normally see by the first of November. Mean temperature for the year so far is 54.6 degrees, which is 3 degrees warmer than average.
“We’ll have to get 1.7 inches of precipitation in the next two months just to avoid being the driest year on record,” said Tom Frieders, meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Billings. “In a normal year, we get 1.3 inches in November and December.”
Statewide, the trend for November is above normal temperatures and precipitation, he said.
“That presents a little good news,” Frieders said.
There are no strong signals for weather beyond November, he continued. A projected El Nino, a warming of tropic Pacific waters that affects climate worldwide, seems to have stalled. The Climate Prediction Center’s latest El Nino forecast said that conditions will be neutral or produce a very weak El Nino going into the winter. In Eastern Montana, El Nino often means a warmer, drier winter.
October’s most winterlike weather hit on Oct. 3, when 2.3 inches of snow fell. That broke the old record of 1.3 inches set Oct. 3, 1991. It was the first snowfall of the season, and it came a little early. On average, the first inch of snow in Billings comes on Oct. 17, but it is has hit as early as Sept. 7, Frieders said.
Measurable precipitation fell on 11 days during the month, and trace amounts were recorded on another eight days. On nine of those days, precipitation came in the form of snowflakes.
The coldest temperature of the month was a low of 23 degrees on Oct. 10. The warmest day was Oct. 2, with a high of 82.
Coldest high temperature of the month was 27 degrees on Oct. 25. That broke the old record for the day of 31 degrees, set in 1969. It was also the only high temperature during the month that fell below freezing. Temperatures below freezing were recorded as nighttime lows eight times.
October was one of only three months that had lower than normal temperatures in 2012. May was .7 degree below average and February was .3 degree below average. But those months could not come close to making up for March, which was 9.3 degrees warmer than average.
November is starting a little warmer than average, with temperatures in the low 60s on Thursday, before dropping to the low 50s on Friday and Saturday. Temperatures should be back in the 60s by Sunday and Monday.
Normal daytime highs for the beginning of November are in the low 50s. By the end of the month, they usually fall to the high 30s. Average precipitation for November is .63 inch.