Cool, Wet June?

The Highlands Mountains south of Butte MT in mid-June, as seen from the foothills of Mt. Fleecer.

I’ve been kind of frustrated, lately, because of the rain. I love rain when it falls on my lawn and on my garden, but I’ve been patiently waiting for the Big Hole to settle down so I can wade the river into my normal spots for early July. 

In most years, the early July waterflow in the Maidenrock section of the river is around 1200-1500 cubic feet per second (cfs). When it’s that level I know that I can wade to good water and hope to catch fish on a dry fly. It’s my go-to destination for the 4th of July. 

Mother Nature had other ideas. Last week, the river was rumbling along at the rate of almost 4500 cfs, and you’d better be darned careful about where you stick your toes in the water, lest you begin an impromptu swim to New Orleans.

I’d best not complain too much, however. All that rain we got last month might be an inconvenience to wading in my favorite river, but I didn’t ask the fish about it. If I had, they would have said, “Too much water? Is there such a thing as too much water?”

Our FWP Big Hole River fisheries biologist, Jim Olsen, and his long-retired predecessor, Dick Oswald, could point at decades of data and point out that every big water year is followed by succeeding years of improved fish populations. 

I’ll also concede that avid floaters, whether they’re fishing or just floating for fun, are smiling, as the water flows mean at least a couple more weeks of floating the river without having to drag boats through the shallow riffles.

Our friends and neighbors in the agricultural community are also happy as their fields and grazing lands stay lush and green with a minimum of assistance from irrigating. A wet rancher is a happy rancher.

Coming into July with fresh snow on our mountain peaks also means that our wildlands fire season will be a lot shorter than we might have anticipated a few weeks ago, such as the day we had high temperatures and gale force winds and fires popping up all over Montana.

We ended June with almost four and a half inches of precipitation in Butte, compared to the long-term average of 2.3 inches. Considering average yearly precipitation of 13 inches, this was a huge month.

It is the nature of weather to be unusual. If it wasn’t we’d run out of things to talk about much of the time. We just completed a cool and wet month here in western Montana, complete with snowstorms and frosty temperatures.

When we have cool weather, there are certain to be skeptics making sarcastic comments about, “More of this global warming, no doubt.”

While we might have spent much of June trying to stay dry and warm, there were areas in Siberia, above the Arctic Circle, having high temps of around 100º F, and overnight lows of 90º. 

Our local planet, Earth, is cruising along to have the hottest year on record. Through the month of May, every month, so far, is either the warmest or second-warmest month on record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,, projects that 2020 is virtually certain to end up among the hottest five years on record and a 50 percent chance of being the warmest on record.

While we tried to keep up with lawn mowing, much of the southwest was dealing with extreme heat and wildfires. The Arctic Ocean ice pack as of May was the fourth smallest since records began in 1979. Nowhere on planet Earth were there record-breaking cold average temperatures in the month of May. May 2020 tied May 2016 as the hottest May on record. The seven hottest Mays on record are the last seven Mays.

I guess I’ll quit complaining about cool, rainy weather. If we have typical weather in July and August things will definitely get warm and dry. By August we can expect smoke haze in our skies. 

Hopefully the smoke will be coming from somewhere else.

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