Montana Weather

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Montana is a large state with considerable variation in geography, and the climate is, therefore, equally varied. The state spans from 'below' the 45th parallel (the halfway line between the equator and the north pole) to the 49th parallel, and elevations range from under 2,000 feet (610 m) to nearly 13,000 feet (4,000 m) above sea level. The western half is mountainous, interrupted by numerous large valleys. Eastern Montana comprises plains and badlands, broken by hills and isolated mountain ranges, and has a semi-aridcontinental climate (Köppen climate classification BSk). The Continental Divide runs north-south through the western mountainous half, and has a great effect on the climate. It restricts the flow of warmer air from the Pacific from moving east, and cooler, drier continental moving west. West of the divide, the climate is described as modified northern Pacific coast climate, with milder winters, cooler summers, less wind, and a longer growing season. In the winter, valley fog and low clouds often form in the valleys west of the divide, but this is rarely seen in the east.

Average daytime temperatures vary from 28 °F (−2 °C) in January to 84.5 °F (29.2 °C) in July.[14] The variation in geography leads to great variation in temperature. Hot weather occurs in the eastern plains on occasion, the highest observed being 117 °F (47 °C) atGlendive on July 20, 1893, and Medicine Lake on July 5, 1937. Throughout the state, summer nights are generally cool and pleasant. Temperatures decrease as altitude increases, and hot weather is unknown above 4,000 ft (1,200 m). Snowfall is not unknown in any month of the year in the central part of Montana, but is rare in July and August.

The climate has become warmer in Montana and continues to do so. The glaciers in Glacier National Park have receded and are predicted to melt away completely in a few decades. Many Montana cities set heat records during July 2007, the hottest month ever recorded in Montana. Winters are warmer, too, and have fewer cold spells. Previously these cold spells had killed off bark beetles which are now attacking the forests of western Montana. The combination of warmer weather, attack by beetles, and mismanagement during past years has led to a substantial increase in the severity of forest fires in Montana. According to a study done for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‎ by the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science, portions of Montana will experience a 200% increase in area burned by wildland fires, and an 80% increase in air pollution from those fires.

   The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, island ranges are found in the centeral third of the state for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains.This geographical fact is reflected in the states name, derived fron the Spanish word montana (mountain).Montana has several nicknames, none official, including: Big Sky Country and The Treasure State, and slogans that include Land of the Shining Mountains and more recently, The Last Best Place. Montana is the fourth most extensive, but the seventh least populous and third least densely populated of the 50 States. The economy is primarily based on services, with ranching, wheat farming, oil and coal mining in the east, and lumber, tourism, and hard rock mining in the west. Millions of tourist annually visit Glacier National Park, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and three of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park.

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