The Missouri River is at or near record lows, and it doesn?t look like there’s much change coming. The Missouri’s headwaters are up in the Rocky Mountains in Montana, where the drought is in its sixth year. Don Potts is the state climatologist for Montana and says actually, this year they’ve seen some good precipitation.
There in the “floor” of the river valley they’re almost four inches above normal for precipitation. But it hasn’t caught up with the lack of deep soil moisture and other effects from the longterm drought, and he says it’s a little early to be worrying about whether the winter snowpack will be below normal.
Potts says in a normal year, the snowpack builds until early spring. Most of the time our maximum snow-water equivalent is at its highest in early April, and Potts thinks that around the first of February we’ll have a better handle on how much moisture the winter may bring us. Potts says the smaller rivers give a good example of the time lag between higher rain and snowfalls and the general amount of water in a region.
Despite above-normal precipitation, streams last summer and fall were at barely fifty percent of their normal flows. He says “It’s just one of those things, there’s a lag in the system. It takes a while to satisfy those…deep deficits and get things back on track.” One reason to hope the big Muddy begins to run higher — it powers half a dozen hydro-electric generating systems that supply electricity for thousands of customers in Iowa.