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Montana NRCS – January 1/2013: Mountain Snowpack Set for Normal Water Year

January 8, 2013

December 2012 treated Montana generously, providing above average snowfall across the entire state, according to snow survey data from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service… (more)

El Ninos Are Highly Unpredictable

January 3, 2013

El Niño events are not as predictable as scientists thought. The frequency and strength of the ocean-warming climate phenomenon were more variable during the 20th century than, on average, during the preceding 7000 years… (more)

Western Governors Emphasize Need for Short - and Long-term Strategies, Preparedness at National Drought Forum

December 13, 2012

Speaking at the National Drought Forum held here today, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback emphasized the critical importance of water resources in the arid West and actions states have taken or that are needed to be adequately prepared… (more)

Farmers' Ability to Manage Soil is Key as Climate Fluctuates

Broadview-area farmer Mitch Auer examines a spade full of soil from a wheat field he harvested last year to test the moisture content of the soil. Using a new technique of harvesting only the tops of the plant with a stripper, cutting just below the wheat head, the remainder of the plant holds moisture in the soil.

Broadview-area farmer Mitch Auer examines a spade full of soil from a wheat field he harvested last year to test the moisture content of the soil. Using a new technique of harvesting only the tops of the plant with a stripper, cutting just below the wheat head, the remainder of the plant holds moisture in the soil.

August 5, 2012

By Tom Lutey

Broadview Mont. – On an afternoon when the air presses against his face like a hot iron, Mitch Auer grabs a shovel from his pickup and lumbers into an old wheat stand that hasn't seen 3 inches of moisture this year.

It's the last day in July and the National Weather Service has just confirmed that Yellowstone County is experiencing one of its hottest summers ever. A couple of weeks earlier, the same meteorologists were declaring the first six months of the 2012 the county's driest on record. The misery in farm country is palpable across the southern third of Montana, with multiple counties seeking disaster declarations for drought, fire, or both, which makes what Auer unearths remarkable.

"There it is," the young farmer said, moist, cool loam just beneath the surface. From the shovel, Auer takes a handful of earth, squeezing it until it bears the creases of his palm. "That was 4 inches maybe, just down a little bit."

A meat thermometer pulled from Auer's pocket and thrust into the ground puts the temperature at 78 degrees, this as the warmth of the air creeps into the high 90s. Using every trick he can conjure, Auer is surviving in a brutal climate, which is what farm economists say producers will have to do to survive the next 18 years… (more)

U.S. Appeals Court Decision Upholds Greenhouse Gas Assertion of EPA

A U.S. federal appeals court has delivered a decisive defeat to states and industry groups that had challenged the scientific and legal underpinnings of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) decision to regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants under the federal Clean Air Act.

In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel ruled that EPA had relied on sound science in deciding that greenhouse gases potentially "endangered" public health and welfare. It also said that the agency had followed proper procedures in developing a series of regulations aimed at curbing emissions from cars and industrial facilities… (more)

NASA Sees Repeating La Niña Hitting its Peak

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La Niña, "the diva of drought," is peaking, increasing the odds that the Pacific Northwest will have more stormy weather this winter and spring, while the southwestern and southern United States will be dry.

Sea surface height data from NASA's Jason-1 and -2 satellites show that the milder repeat of last year's strong La Niña has recently intensified, as seen in this latest Jason-2 image of the Pacific Ocean.

The image is based on the average of 10 days of data centered on Jan. 8, 2012. It depicts places where the Pacific sea surface height is higher than normal (due to warm water) as yellow and red, while places where the sea surface is lower than normal (due to cool water) are shown in blues and purples. Green indicates near-normal conditions. The height of the sea surface over a given area is an indicator of ocean temperature and other factors that influence climate.

This is the second consecutive year that the Jason altimetric satellites have measured lower-than-normal sea surface heights in the equatorial Pacific and unusually high sea surface heights in the western Pacific… (more)

Genetically Engineered Bacteria Could Help Fight Climate Change

As humans warm the planet by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, some researchers believe that capturing CO2 and trapping it in buried rocks could lower the risk of catastrophic climate change. Now a team of researchers has shown that bacteria can help the process along. They can even be genetically modified to trap CO2 faster, keeping it underground for millions of years.

When CO2 is pumped into underground porous rocks, it combines with metal ions in the salty water that fills the rock pores and mineralizes into mineral carbonates, such as calcium carbonate (CaCO3). The process can take thousands of years. To see if they could speed things up, biochemist Jenny Cappuccio and colleagues at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Center for Nanoscale Control of Geologic CO2 put a diverse mix of common bacterial species in a calcium chloride solution in the lab and then pumped in CO2. They found that calcium carbonate formed faster in areas where the bacteria were living than it did in sterile solutions. The CaCO3 also had a different mineral structure when the bacteria were around. It tended to grow into crystals of white calcite instead of amorphous black lumps (see picture). The bacteria enhanced the formation of calcite even when they were just lying around, not growing or multiplying… (more)

Montana DNRC


  • Dept. of Natural Resources & Conservation
  • Water Resources Division
  • 1424 Ninth Avenue
  • PO Box 201601
  • Helena Montana 59620-1601
  • (406) 444-6601
  • drought.mt.gov