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Montana May Warm Faster Than Rest Of U.S., Says Climate Report

Nate Hegyi
A view of the 'M' is obscured by smoke in Missoula, Montana

Montana’s first-ever climate assessment says this past summer may be a vision of the state’s future due to climate change. 

“Montana is going to get warmer and the warming is going to be greater than in a lot of parts of the United States and the world,” says Cathy Whitlock, the report's lead author. The climate assessment was released today.

She says the state could see a 4-to-6 degree rise in temperature by mid-century.

“The kinds of fires that we’ve had this summer are completely consistent with what we would see in the future," Whitlock says. "We’ll see more insect outbreaks. We’ll see warmer streams and that will stress our native fish, our coldwater fish.”

The climate assessment is the culmination of a two-year project involving Montana university system researchers, tribal colleges, state and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, and stakeholders across Montana.

It looks at climate trends in the state and how they will impact key sectors like water, forests, and agriculture.

“Our growing season is now 12 days longer than it was in 1950," Whitlock says. "These have big impacts and I think people on the land are already seeing changes. The people that we’ve talked to over the last two years recognize that there’s been a lot of climate change going on, so hopefully we can provide some information.”

Whitlock, a professor at Montana State University, will send copies of the assessment to the governor’s office, as well as the state’s congressional delegation.