History of the Montana Climate Office

Montana State University's Joe Caprio retired in 1994 as State Climatologist. Joe joined Montana State University, College of Agriculture in 1955, starting as an assistant professor of agricultural climatology and retiring as a full professor in 1993. He served as Montana's State Climatologist for 15 years (1979-1993). Joe, along with his colleague Jerry Nielsen published a climate atlas of Montana in 1994.

Montana was one of just a few states left without an official climatologist and state climate office. In the late 1990s, W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation professors Steve Running and Don Potts took a step in reviving the Montana Climate Office with backing from the University of Montana's Research Office. A webmaster was hired to build a web site that directed visitors to relevant Montana and regional climate-related information. A primary mission of the Montana Climate Office is to provide easy access to Montana climatologic services. The goal was simply to create a web-based presence that lead people to climatological data.

In 2006 Governor Schweitzer designated the Montana Climate Office as the official Montana State Climate Office. That was quickly followed by the University of Montana President Dennison's acceptance of that responsibility. The Montana Climate Office languished during this period due to the lack of any operational funding. That changed in 2010, when W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation Dean Perry Brown asked Michael Sweet, a research and information systems specialist within the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, to allocate some of his time in investigating other state climate offices. Through those investigations, Mike arrived at some recommendations to the move the Montana Climate Office forward.

In mid-2012, almost 18 years after Joe Caprio concluded his work with the Montana Climate Office, the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation was able to recruit two new faculty members who have a keen interest in advancing the capabilities of the Montana Climate Office. The support of these faculty, along with existing information services support, will allow Montana to apply for membership in the American Association of State Climatologists (AASC) and in the National Climate Services Partnership as an AASC Recognized State Climate Office (ARSCO). The ARSCO mission it is to promote cooperation among state climatologists and agencies that collect, analyze, and disseminate climate information. The scientists and staff at the Montana Climate Office are excited about the opportunities ahead.