Billings, Montana Climate

Billings has a semi-arid climate with long, cold winters and hot, dry summers. Located in south central Montana, Billings weather is influenced by air masses from the Pacific Ocean, the Arctic, and the northern Plains. Its position east of the Rocky Mountains exposes it to cold arctic air in the winter but helps moderate summer high temperatures.

Billings enjoys nearly 300 sunny days a year but sees wide variations in seasonal temperatures. The city’s altitude of 3,126 feet above sea level and distance from large bodies of water account for many of these climate extremes. However, its typical dry climate allows for pleasant weather much of the year.

Temperature and Precipitation

Average Temperatures

Billings experiences warm, frequently hot summers and bitterly cold winters:

  • Summer High: 84°F (29°C)
  • Winter Low: 12°F (-11°C)

The hottest months are July and August, with average highs of 86°F (30°C). The coldest months are December and January, during which average low temperatures drop to 12-15°F (-11 to -9°C).

Below freezing temperatures can occur in any month except July. Triple digit heat occurs occasionally in the summer, with a record high of 105°F (41°C).

Precipitation

Billings receives little precipitation annually:

  • Average Annual Precipitation: 14.5 inches (368 mm)

Nearly half the yearly precipitation falls from April to July. Spring and early summer tend to be the wettest periods. December is the driest month.

Rain typically occurs as thunderstorms or showers during the growing season. The limited winter moisture usually falls as snow.

Seasonal Climate Variations

Spring (March to May)

Spring arrives slowly in Billings as arctic air masses still influence the region through March. As Pacific air becomes more prevalent, temperatures begin warming by April and May.

  • Average high/low in March: 46°F/24°F (8°C/-4°C)
  • Average high/low in May: 66°F/42°F (19°C/6°C)

Precipitation increases in the spring, with June being the wettest month. Snow can fall early but becomes rare by May. Severe thunderstorms occasionally develop during this transitional period. The last spring freeze typically occurs in late May.

Summer (June to August)

Summer days are very warm to hot but temperatures cool substantially at night in Billings. The region becomes quite dry in the summer which limits intense heat and humidity.

  • Average high/low in June: 76°F/51°F (24°C/11°C)
  • Average high/low in August: 86°F/57°F (30°C/14°C)

July is the hottest and driest month. Afternoon temperatures above 100°F (38°C) occur during heat waves.

The summer climate allows for many outdoor activities in Billings like hiking, biking, golfing and water recreation. Summer evenings are especially pleasant.

Fall (September to November)

Pleasant sunny weather initially prevails in September but growing arctic air masses bring dropping temperatures by November.

  • Average high/low in September: 74°F/45°F (23°C/7°C)
  • Average high/low in November: 43°F/24°F (6°C/-4°C)

The first freeze typically comes by late September, ending the growing season. By November daytime highs may not get above freezing. Precipitation decreases but mountain snows signal the coming winter.

Winter (December to February)

Frigid arctic air brings bitterly cold temperatures to Billings every winter. Short daylight hours combined with snowy landscapes create a long, harsh season.

  • Average high/low in December: 33°F/12°F (1°C/-11°C)
  • Average high/low in February: 37°F/15°F (3°C/-9°C)

Sub-zero lows are common and highs may remain below freezing for weeks. But despite the cold, Billings normally receives little snow compared to other Montana cities due to its relatively dry climate.

Chinook winds occasionally raise winter temperatures 50 degrees or more in a matter of hours, providing temporary relief.

Climate Influences

Topography

Billings’ inland location and elevation on the Plains east of the Rockies give it a semi-arid continental climate. The mountains block Pacific moisture leading to dry air and wide temperature extremes. Its elevation keeps overall temperatures cooler.

Air Masses

Winter cold is a result of frigid arctic air moving south from Canada. Warm Pacific air raises summer temperatures. The contrast creates huge seasonal differences.

In spring and fall these air masses battle for control of the region’s weather, causing frequent fluctuations.

Latitude

At 45 degrees north latitude Billings receives fairly moderate exposure to the sun’s energy. More direct sunlight during long summer days warms the region. Shorter winter daylight reduces heating despite clear skies.

Weather Events

Thunderstorms

As a drier climate, Billings sees fewer thunderstorms than many other areas. But the collisions of air masses in spring and summer often spark intense storms. These can bring heavy rain, hail, lightning and strong winds.

Snowstorms

Major snowstorms occur in Billings nearly every winter, typically between October and April. The city averages about 50 inches of snow per year. Blizzards featuring blowing snow with whiteout conditions are the most dangerous weather events in the region.

Chinook Winds

The famed Chinook winds develop when air descends the eastern slopes of the Rockies, compressing and warming rapidly. These moisture-robbing winds can raise temperatures as much as 60°F in several hours, quickly melting snow. Despite their cold climate, Chinooks give Billings more moderate winters than locations further north or east.

Heat Waves

On hot summer days, temperatures in Billings occasionally spike over 100°F (38°C). Combined with wind and low humidity, these heat waves put vulnerable populations at risk. However, summer nights remain comparatively cool thanks to the low moisture content of the air.

Drought

Low precipitation makes drought a recurring problem in the Billings area. Lack of winter snowpack and spring rains lead to very dry summers. Ongoing drought cycles cause water restrictions, harm agriculture, and increase the wildfire threat.

Outdoor Activities

Despite extreme seasonal shifts, Billings’ sunny weather allows plenty of time for enjoying the outdoors all year when properly prepared. Here are top activities during each season:

Spring

  • Hiking and biking on drying trails
  • Fishing as ice melts on lakes and rivers
  • Golfing on emerging greens
  • Viewing wildflowers blooming on the plains

Summer

  • Floating down rivers and streams
  • Boating and swimming at Lake Elmo
  • Camping and grilling at lower elevations
  • Baseball games with pleasant evenings

Fall

  • Mountain biking on single-track trails
  • Hunting birds and big game
  • Wildlife viewing with binoculars
  • Football games in crisp air

Winter

  • Downhill skiing at Red Lodge Mountain
  • Snowboarding at Rock Creek Hills
  • Ice skating at Phipps Park
  • Sledding on golf courses and hills

Average Monthly Climate Summary

Below are averages high and low temperatures plus precipitation for each month in Billings:

MonthAverage HighAverage LowAvg. Precipitation
January35°F / 2°C15°F / -9°C0.4 inches / 10 mm
February37°F / 3°C15°F / -9°C0.33 inches / 8 mm
March46°F / 8°C24°F / -4°C0.9 inches / 23 mm
April57°F / 14°C34°F / 1°C1.45 inches / 37 mm
May66°F / 19°C42°F / 6°C2.26 inches / 57 mm
June76°F / 24°C51°F / 11°C2.5 inches / 64 mm
July86°F / 30°C57°F / 14°C1.18 inches / 30 mm
August86°F / 30°C57°F / 14°C1.02 inches / 26 mm
September74°F / 23°C45°F / 7°C1.45 inches / 37 mm
October58°F / 15°C34°F / 1°C1

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Directions

  • Start out going northwest on Main St toward N 28th St. Take the 1st right onto N 28th St. Turn right onto Grand Ave, then quickly turn left to merge onto I-90 W toward Sheridan. Follow I-90 W for approximately 70 miles, then take exit 442 for Blue Creek Rd toward Billings. Turn right onto Blue Creek Rd and the destination will be on your right after about 0.3 miles.
  • Head west on Main St toward N 29th St. Turn right onto N 29th St, followed by a slight left to merge onto I-90 W. Stay on I-90 W, driving for roughly 70 miles, before taking the Blue Creek Rd exit on the right. Take the ramp onto Blue Creek Rd and go straight for 0.3 miles until you arrive at 3910 Blue Creek Rd on your right.
  • Start by getting on I-90 W from Main St. Drive on the interstate for about 70 miles then take exit 442 to merge onto Blue Creek Rd. As soon as you exit, turn right to continue on Blue Creek Rd. 3910 Blue Creek Rd will be around 0.3 miles down the road on your right side. The travel time should be just over an hour from downtown Billings.