It’s been an interesting summer so far, with lots of thunderstorms and an absence of any truly hot spells. According to the climate calendar for the Gallatin Valley, the period from mid-July through mid-August usually is the hottest time of the year, so it will be interesting to see what blows our way during the next few weeks.

Daytime highs last month at the airport near Belgrade and on the Montana State University campus in Bozeman were the coolest for any July since 1997. At MSU, where the mercury stayed below 80 degrees on 15 days, readings ran more than 4 degrees below average. So far this year at the airport, 90-degree temperatures have occurred on only six days, compared with the median of about 10.

Through the first seven months of 2019, the average temperature at MSU pencils out as the coolest since 1955, a full 5 degrees below the long-term average. This is largely due to the extreme cold last February and March, and I’m curious whether this anomaly will hold up as the year progresses. In that same vein, the streak of below-average maximum temperatures at MSU has now reached 14 consecutive months.

The April-June wet season brought near to slightly above average precipitation to the area. This year, that season seems to have extended through the first half of July. Lawn watering season got quite a late start this year as a result.

In a chuckle-inducing oddity, July rainfall at both the airport and MSU was exactly 1.70 inches. Both totals were above average, but the local winner last month was MSU’s Post Farm, on Huffine east of Four Corners, where 2.7 inches fell.

This is a great illustration of the spotty nature of summer thunderstorms. Post Farm reported at least four-tenths of an inch on three days in July, so the passing showers clearly favored that part of the county last month.

With two months remaining in the water year, the MSU campus shows a surplus of more than 2.5 inches, while the airport surplus is a modest one-half inch.

According to maps from the Drought Monitor and Montana’s Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee, an area of moderate to severe drought extends from northwest Oregon, through western and northern Washington, across the Idaho panhandle and into the extreme northwest corner of Montana. Most of Montana west of the divide shows up as abnormally dry.

Greg Ainsworth keeps an eye on local weather and climate. Contact him at