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a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges that are part of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name, derived from the Spanish word montaña (mountain). Montana has several nicknames, none official,[4] including: "Big Sky Country" and "The Treasure State", and slogans that include "Land of the Shining Mountains" and more recently, "The Last Best Place".[5][6] Montana is the 4th-most extensive, but the 7th-least populous and the 3rd-least densely populated of the 50 United States. The economy is primarily based on services, with ranching, wheat farming, oil and coal mining in the east, and lumber, tourism, and hard rock mining in the west.[7] Millions of tourists annually visit Glacier National Park, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and three of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park.[

Montana is a large state with considerable variation in geography, and the climate is, therefore, equally varied. The state spans from 'below' the 45th parallel (the halfway line between the equator and the north pole) to the 49th parallel, and elevations range from under 2,000 feet (610 m) to nearly 13,000 feet (4,000 m) above sea level. The western half is mountainous, interrupted by numerous large valleys. Eastern Montana comprises plains and badlands, broken by hills and isolated mountain ranges, and has a semi-arid, continental climate (Köppen climate classification BSk). The Continental Divide runs north-south through the western mountainous half, and has a great effect on the climate. It restricts the flow of warmer air from the Pacific from moving east, and cooler, drier continental moving west. West of the divide, the climate is described as modified northern Pacific coast climate, with milder winters, cooler summers, less wind, and a longer growing season.[15] In the winter, valley fog and low clouds often form in the valleys west of the divide, but this is rarely seen in the east.[16]

Average daytime temperatures vary from 28 °F (−2 °C) in January to 84.5 °F (29.2 °C) in July.[17] The variation in geography leads to great variation in temperature. Hot weather occurs in the eastern plains on occasion, the highest observed being 117 °F (47 °C) at Glendive on July 20, 1893, and Medicine Lake on July 5, 1937. Throughout the state, summer nights are generally cool and pleasant. Temperatures decrease as altitude increases, and extremely hot weather is relatively unknown above 4,000 ft (1,200 m). Snowfall is not unknown in any month of the year in parts of Montana, namely in the more mountainous areas of central & western Montana, but is rare in July and August.[15]

The Big Drift covering the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park as photographed on March 23, 2006.
The coldest temperature on record for Montana is also the coldest temperature for the entire contiguous U.S. On January 20, 1954, −70 °F (−57 °C) was recorded at a gold mining camp near Rogers Pass. Temperatures vary greatly on such cold nights, and Helena, 40 miles (64 km) to the southeast had a low of only −36 °F (−38 °C).[15] Winter cold spells last a week or so, and are usually the result of cold continental air coming south from Canada. The front is often well defined, causing a large temperature drop in a 24-hour period. Conversely, air flow from the southwest results in "Chinooks". These steady 25–50 mph (or more) winds can suddenly warm parts of Montana, especially areas just to the east of the mountains, where temperatures sometimes rise up to 50 °F (10 °C) – 60 °F (15 °C).[15]

Loma, Montana is the location of the most extreme recorded temperature change in a 24-hour period in the United States. On January 15, 1972, the temperature rose from −54 °F (−48 °C) to 49 °F (9 °C).[18]