If you enjoyed Montana's winter weather last year, expect more of the same this year. National Weather Service Meteorologist Marty Whitmore says Montanans should prepare for wet and cold conditions.

“There is more confidence in a La Niña winter and it is really a back to back winter for that scenario,” Whitmore said. “That is when the sea surface temperatures are cooler than normal in the equatorial pacific. That typically gives us a storm track that puts quite a bit of moisture over western Montana and it tends to make us a little bit cooler in a northwesterly flow.”

According to Whitmore, this type of winter weather could not come at a better time for western Montana.

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“For an area like Montana and all of the west, it has been in such a drought condition that it is a welcome thing to have a pattern that typically gives a pretty good mountain snow pack,” Whitmore said. “The valleys are usually near normal to maybe above normal, but it is a little bit more consistent in the mountains.”

Whitmore said that a La Niña winter is expected, but that doesn’t mean it is a guarantee.

“There have been a few La Niña’s in the past that didn’t work out that way and they ended up being dryer than normal,” Whitmore said. “Like anything in forecast or climatology, it is far from certain, but it looks pretty good for the northwest.”

Whitmore emphasized that arctic outbreaks always have a significant impact on just how cold it can get.

"A La Niña forecast will yield a cooler than normal winter, but in western Montana, it is those arctic outbreaks that end up dictating whether we have a cold or a warmer than normal season,” Whitmore said. “If you have a higher number of those or if you can get a cold snap and it sticks around for a while, that can be problematic. The nice thing about La Niña is with that relatively active storm pattern that you would expect under a La Niña, if we do get an arctic, it will probably be eroded away by an incoming weather system within a day or two.”

High temperatures in Missoula have already dropped down to the low 50s and high 40s. On and off showers are expected the rest of the week.

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