Researchers at the University of Montana are the latest predicting a record low runoff for rivers this year, and adding concern over the impacts that could have on our local economy.

The past two reports from the Natural Resources Conservation Service have shown the growing problem with Montana's "snow drought" this season. And while conditions in some basins, like the Bitterroot and Clark Fork had improved somewhat by March 1st, the state is quickly running out of time to build snowpack.

While there is snow in the weekend forecast, it comes after a week of near-record-warm temperatures.

RELATED: Will Montana Recieve More Snow in Time for Summer? 

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The warmest in a century

Missoula came close to eclipsing high-temperature readings not seen since 1910, the year an extremely dry spring following a normal winter led to the "Big Blowup" and the worst fires in U.S. History. Highs of 69 degrees Monday through Wednesday were just below that 70-degree record.

Despite the snow forecast, a growing concern

Researchers at the University of Montana's Montana Climate Office believe we're heading for record lows for several river basins in Western Montana.

"Our forecasts suggest that we're not even going to hit the lowest on record," MCO Director of Climate Extension Kyle Bocinsky told us this week. "It's not even close".

He notes particular concerns for the three major basins that depend on the snowpack on the "Crown of the Continent", which have some of the lowest snow totals ever reported.

Irrigation sprinklers in the Bitterroot Valley;
Dennis Bragg photo

And Bocinsky says warm weather like we had this week won't help. Without a wet spring and early summer to slow the melt, and keep moisture in the drainages and mountain slopes he believes that will lead to far-reaching economic impacts.

"Things like recreation impacts, river closures. We could see impacts to irrigation in Western Montana." - Kyle Bocinsky, Director Montana Climate Office

He says warmer, drier conditions could also be a big setback to Montana's lucrative fishing industry and agriculture.

LOOK: Biggest snowfalls recorded in Montana history

Stacker compiled a list of the biggest 1-day snowfalls in Montana using data from the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Gallery Credit: Stacker