The NOAA Climate Prediction Center and the National Weather Service have released their official long-term winter forecast for western Montana. 

Meteorologist Corby Dickerson said the upcoming winter will be relatively dry and warm, as compared to previous winters, due to the influence of an El Nino weather pattern.

"It's not the best news for those hoping for a cold and snowy winter, Dickerson said. "It looks like El Nino is going to bear a stronger influence on our weather than what we've seen in the past couple of years. There are patterns in the western Pacific that are indicating a warming trend, so they're predicting a 67 percent chance of El Nino developing before the end of this year."

Dickerson said that does not mean that Missoula and western Montana won't experience any snowstorms or cold snaps.

"There are patterns that we call oscillations, so those are the little things that we'll be watching for this winter, with some snow events and cold snaps," he said. "But, by and large, when we look in the rear-view mirror of this coming winter, we'll see a warmer than normal and a drier than normal winter."

Remarkably, this is a similar forecast released earlier this year for this area by the Old Farmer's Almanac, which also called for warmer temperatures and less snow for western Montana. Both, however, also called for harsher winters for much of the southern and eastern parts of the country.

****One of our readers relayed a quote from the Old farmer's Almanac that was published after this story was filed, regarding their thoughts about an El Nino weather pattern. Here is that excerpt.

Potential El Niño is an Uncertain Element

As we were putting the finishing touches on this year’s long-range projections, the National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration issued an official El Niño watch. An El Niño is a warming of the central Pacific once every few years, from a combination of wind and waves in the tropics. It shakes up climate around the world, changing rain and temperature patterns. An El Niño could result in more rain this winter for drought-stricken California and Southern States, and a milder winter for the nation’s frigid northern tier. El Niños are usually strongest from December to April, but there’s no guarantee that we will see one this winter. We’ll just have to wait and see, but in the mean time, all of us at the Farmers’ Almanac suggest you stock up on firewood, sweaters, and hot cocoa. It certainly looks like another long winter of shivery and shovelry is on tap.