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weather at wheaton labs - from montana winters to the 'August Singularity'  RSS feed

 
Jocelyn Campbell
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We get a lot of questions about the weather here - especially winter in Montana! And now, during August, I wanted to post about the 'August Singularity,' too.

Here's a bunch of generalities about our weather at wheaton labs - averages or estimates at best, nothing hard and fast here! I'm sure other residents might have items to add, embellish or even correct from my thoughts.
  • 20-23 inches of annual rainfall (this includes snowfall; one standard is that 12" of snow is about 1" of rain/water)
  • last frost date used to be early June, though 50/50% chance it's mid-May now
  • first fall frost date mid-September
  • winter snow accumulation - typically first snows in November, and is less than a foot or two accumulation most of the winter. More often than not, it might snow a couple inches, then the sun comes out and melts it off.
  • temperatures fluctuate widely in a day - 40 degrees F or more in 24 hours (layers!)
  • winter temps - usually 20's or 30's F at night, with 30's, 40's or even 50's in the day; there are some cold spells with temps in the teens (F) both day and night, though not usually for long
  • summer temps - 80's, 90's are the average, with some 70's and 100's (F), though being dry heat it usually cools off at night which is nice (though can surprise or be chilly to warm-weather folks!)
  • forest fires - this is dry timberland country with forest fire ecologies - there can be smoky air from forest fires in the summer

  • Evan's pic of Allerton Abbey, winter 2015-16:


    Here's a picture from the June 2016 at course (by Evan in his ant village log) where folks are still wearing jackets and long sleeves (though two of these are Sountherners!):


    Paul was mentioning how August usually has afternoon thunderstorms that come out of the blue (ha!) on a sunny day, make their noise, rain, etc., and then it will clear up again. Which reminded me of the 'Northern Rockies August Singularity.' From this article 'August Singularity' not just folklore:

    They found that a significant cold spell in the Northern Rockies regularly occurs around Aug. 24-26. A shorter August Singularity also tends to occur around Aug. 13. Temperatures can drop by as much as 40 degrees below average during the event.

    The cooling can be nice during the hottest part of summer and forest fire season, though huge temperature shifts like this usually come with high winds, which could make forest fires worse.

    More from the article about what the term 'singularity' means:

    A singularity is a weather condition that tends to occur near a specific date more frequently than chance would indicate, according to the American Meteorological Society's Glossary of Meteorology.

    The New England region's "January Thaw" that regularly occurs around Jan. 20-24 is the most extensively studied by far.

    In the West, Sandman said, the most well-known and predictable weather event has long been the start of monsoon season that arrives in Arizona and New Mexico in June. But the August Singularity is not far behind.



     
    Julia Winter
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    The winters in Montana seem pretty mild, compared to Wisconsin.  Even compared to Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, actually.  The cold weather has fewer breaks in the midwest, from Chicago northwards the snow tends to just keeping piling up through January and February.  Or at least, it used to!
     
    David Lehnherr
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    Grew up in Montana, and now live in south-central Montana. Our weather is becoming even less predictable than it used to be. Our summers are definitely trending towards warmer and longer. One of the odd things is how we're seeing thunderstorms more frequently in summer afternoons now. Definitely makes planning outdoor activities more interesting.
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    I agree with Julia's comment about the winters here being fairly mild. I enjoy Montana winters!

    I grew up in the Seattle suburbs where winters are almost constant grey, along with almost constant drizzle and damp. It's generally only 40-50 degrees F most of the winter, but it's so dark and wet that it feels colder than that. Summers are milder in the Seattle area, too, but they can be humid from all that moisture.

    Folks ask me all the time how can I handle four seasons after living in such a mild climate. I like having more sun here. Sunshine in the winter is a glorious thing to me. I find that the dry cold and the dry heat are both easier to tolerate in a lot of ways, too.

    As David mentioned, and from what I've heard, too, the summers are tending to be hotter here. We are growing more and more greenery, including loads of deciduous trees, plus adding in water features - all of which will combine to make the heat far more tolerable IMHO. I'm always amazed at how much the growies love the heat and sun, so there is a huge upside that way.

    One more comment about winter. When you have hundreds of acres, you have dirt roads and dirt paths - it's not like the city or suburbs where so much of the byways are gravel, cement/asphalt, or even wood chips. Dirt roads get muddy and slippery in the rain, and dusty in the heat. We are doing a lot to grade the roads properly and grow plants on them to help with the slippery and the dusty, though I have to say, in the winter, to have our dirt roads frozen solid, and then the snow melts completely off them most days, well...that's just fantastic, if you ask me.

     
    John Weiland
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    Aren't the Chinooks the main force that keeps the eastern slope of the Rockies in Montana on the warm side during winter?  It's been noted how this warming effect can influence even western North Dakota and South Dakota.  By the time you get to the eastern Dakotas and Minnesota, the main winter influence is the cold tongue of deep freeze that descends out of the central Canadian provinces blanketing Minnesota, Wisconsin and nearby areas.  Irrespective of what Trump has in mind, we northern Plains folks secretly are planning a tall, well-insulated, several-mile-high wall at the Canadian border to divert the Alberta clippers to the east.     The eastern Montana plains can have some pretty cold plummets in mid- and late-winter, but the western part sounds near-ideal.  Also, after spending freshman college year as a 'Greener in Olympia WA, the long rains of winter did get a bit old, but it was pretty novel that you could drive east across the Cascades into warmth and sun.
     
    Julia Winter
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    Hey, what happened to the August Singularity?

    (Edit)

    Oh wait - I see, it's not due until the 24th.  Hope y'all are keeping cool!
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    Julia Winter wrote:Hey, what happened to the August Singularity?

    (Edit)

    Oh wait - I see, it's not due until the 24th.  Hope y'all are keeping cool!

    I think we had the shorter singularity, (which is touted as often occurring around Aug. 13), or a similar colder spell any way, about a week and a half ago. There was a lovely thunderstorm and days that topped out in the 70's which is rather cool for August around here, and was a nice change.

    Over the last week it's been in the 80's, at times low 90's (all Fahrenheit, of course) and looking similar for the next week or so. The nights are averaging in the 50's which, as I mentioned above is truly lovely, making morning and evening temperatures in the 70's, which is just about perfect.

    During the upcoming singularity timing, the forecast is that we could get night time temps in the upper 40's for a week or so, but still averaging in the 80's during the day. That's quite the range!

     
    Julia Winter
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    You are far from the ocean, that's for sure!  I remember those big temp swings from Wisconsin, although in summer the humidity can keep the nights from cooling down.

    (I'm on the Oregon coast right now, Netarts Bay - the temp doesn't change much, although when the sun hits this 30+ year old house in the afternoon, it gets really warm!)
     
    Rez Zircon
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    David Lehnherr wrote:Grew up in Montana, and now live in south-central Montana. Our weather is becoming even less predictable than it used to be. Our summers are definitely trending towards warmer and longer. One of the odd things is how we're seeing thunderstorms more frequently in summer afternoons now. Definitely makes planning outdoor activities more interesting.


    Howdy, neighbor! (Up the road in Laurel.) Yeah, this last couple years I thought maybe I'd moved to Seattle by mistake... lot milder than it was in the 60s/70s, but it's starting to swing back the other way.

    When I was a kid in Great Falls (1960s) afternoon summer thunderstorms were a way of life. You just assumed a picnic would get an obligatory 20 minutes of lightning and hail.

    Only edible I have this year was a tomato that volunteered in the flowerbed. It looks like crap and has one puny tomato on it.
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    A Montana valley (was it the Swan?) had a frost last week with our August singularity weather - we did not. One of the many reasons Paul prefers higher elevation hillsides to valley floors for growing things.
     
    Rez Zircon
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    Jocelyn Campbell wrote:A Montana valley (was it the Swan?) had a frost last week with our August singularity weather - we did not. One of the many reasons Paul prefers higher elevation hillsides to valley floors for growing things.


    Realtime satellite view http://www.ssec.wisc.edu/data/us_comp/us_comp.html showed snow in B.C. mountains last week, all the way down to northern Washington. Was supposed to snow in Glacier Park, don't know if it did but I did see temperatures down to the high 20s. Got to 45F here near Billings, and about 50F here in my little garden spot. Global warming!
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    We have some haze today from forest fires. Tis the season.

    I was trying to find out what was burning where and this list was helpful: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/state/27/.

     
    Rez Zircon
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    Yeah, last week my sister (who is over near Bozeman) said Yellowstone was like living in a campfire.

    Neighbor told me it did snow down along Beartooth Pass, enough that they closed it for a day. Was supposed to be 96F today but thankfully didn't make it. Montana, land of extremes!
     
    paul wheaton
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    September 13th - first frost of 2016 at basecamp.  There is a pretty strong frost on the windshield of the prius.  Now to wait and see how the frost sensitive plants do on all the TEFA.
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    Some times, we get to see the northern lights in Montana! Viewing chances loosely predicted from tonight, 9/27/2016, through the next 72 hours.

    http://www.krtv.com/story/33261710/northern-lights-may-be-visible-in-montana-on-tuesday-night?


     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    I joke that the Duke declared the weather must be like Camelot's here.

    The last two days of September (2016) were sunny during the day, and rain after dark. This really does happen quite frequently.



     
    Rez Zircon
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    Jocelyn Campbell wrote:
    The last two days of September (2016) were sunny during the day, and rain after dark. This really does happen quite frequently.


    One El Niño year when I was living in SoCal, we got a LOT of winter rain -- but not once did it rain during daylight. Very strange!

    Whoever's in charge of such things just turned off the irrigation ditch, so even tho it's 80 degrees I can now declare it's officially winter.
     
    Rob Griffin
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    I was in the picture of solar oven challenge in June (wearing the shorts).  I am from the South, but we had been there 3 weeks or so at that time and living pretty close to the ground, as we were camping out the whole time, so we were getting better acclimated at that point (thus the shorts).  It did not frost while we were there in June, but I believe the first week there it missed several excellent opportunities.  I will say it started out being so cold at night that sleeping in a tent with a summer sleeping bag was not comfortable at all.  Then it got down right hot during the day and a couple of times at night sometime in that third week but it went back and forth until we left at the end of the month if I recall.  There appears to be no atmosphere there to hold onto the heat, so it was pretty cool in the mornings even if it had been hot the previous afternoon.  The shop where the classes were held would cool over night and was insulated so it did not heat up from the Sun very rapidly.  Sometimes someone would fire up the RMH in there, but it was a big area and most of the heat was radiant off the barrels and did not stick around.  You could only tell there was heat coming off the bench if you left a back pack or something on it and the bottom would get warm to the touch.  So unless we were outside doing something fairly physical, most people started the day off with a jacket (even in the Shop) and then would probably come out of it later in the day...Except for Willie and Yosemite Sam who pretty much looked bundled up, as seen in the picture, the whole time.   
     
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