Support Local Journalism


2019 closed on a bit of an odd note across the Gallatin Valley, as the unusually warm, dry weather didn’t seem December-like at all.

Only 0.09 inches of precipitation fell at the airport, which ties the second lowest December total since 1941. The story was similar in Bozeman, where the Montana State University campus station could only manage 0.20 inches, the sixth driest in 124 years.

Since consistent snow records began in 1949, the smallest December snowfall at MSU was 2 inches back in 1986. Last month, observers measured only a bit over 3 inches, now second in the record book. Even so, thanks to impressive early-winter storms, the seasonal total remains almost a half-foot above average.

Daytime maximum temperatures on campus were 2 degrees warmer than average in December, so the phenomenal streak of 18 consecutive months with below average highs has come to an end. From June 2018 through November 2019, high temperatures ran 4.5 degrees cooler than average at MSU.

Morning minimums last month weren’t very winter-like either. Lows were almost 6 degrees above the standard, and below-zero readings occurred only once (on December 1).

Despite December’s relative warmth and dryness, 2019 will go into the books as an unusually cool year with more than ample moisture.

At MSU, the average temperature for 2019 (the average of all the daily highs and lows) was the coolest since 1955, about 3.5 degrees below climatology. Remember that last February and March were brutally cold across the valley (each more than 12 degrees below average), and October was in record territory as well.

Just over 23 inches of liquid precipitation fell at MSU, a surplus of about 3 1/3 inches. This is the third consecutive year with at least 21 inches at MSU, where the average annual precipitation is 19.7 inches. Exactly 15 inches fell at the airport, for a modest surplus of an inch.

Perhaps the most significant weather-related events of 2019 were the roof collapses during March at MSU. Heavy snow began in late January, and due to the frigid conditions stayed around for a long time. A record snow depth of 33 inches was reported at MSU on March 8, which didn’t disappear until early April.

Smoke from Canadian forest fires plagued the area in May, and a cold air funnel cloud was spotted in Bozeman’s skies on June 16. Volcanic eruptions on the other side of the Pacific created interesting sunsets beginning in August. A freak early-season Arctic outbreak paved the way for record-low October readings at the airport, on two consecutive mornings. It was quite a weather year.

Support Local Journalism

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.

Recommended for you