Dakotas blizzard adds to extreme spring flooding risk

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:13 AM GMT on February 21, 2011

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Heavy snows in excess of six inches have piled up over much of South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin, and Minnesota today, with a storm maximum of 16 inches reported at Midland, South Dakota. This is bad news for residents in flood-prone areas of the Upper Midwest, as the new storm has added more than another half inch of melted rainfall equivalent to a snowpack that already had a record water content. When all that snow melts in late March, we can expect another spring of major and possibly record flooding for North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, or the Upper Mississippi River north of St. Louis, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Their February Spring Flood Outlook released last week warned: "Heavy autumn rains and above average water content in the snow pack throughout the North Central U.S. have produced a high risk of moderate and major flooding for the Spring of 2011. Areas of greatest concern include the Red River of the North in North Dakota and Minnesota, Devils Lake in North Dakota, the James River and Big Sioux River in South Dakota, and areas along the Upper Mississippi River including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.

Heavy late summer and autumn precipitation (twice the normal amount since October in parts of North Dakota and Minnesota) have soils saturated and streams running high before the winter freeze-up. Another winter of above average snowfall has added water to the snow pack on top of the frozen saturated soils in the North Central US. NWS models show this snowpack containing a water content ranked in the 90 to 100 percentile when compared to a 60 year average. These factors have combined to create some of the highest soil moisture contents of the last century. "



Figure 1. North Central U.S. flood risk. Image credit: NWS. The outlook will be updated on February 24, and a final outlook issued March 17.

There is a huge amount of snow on the ground in North Dakota along the tributaries of the Red River, thanks to fall precipitation that was 150% - 300% of normal, and winter snows that have dumped up to 400% more precipitation than usual. If one were to melt this snow, it would amount to 4 - 5 inches of rain. If heavy rains occur at the same time that the snow melts, there is the potential for the greatest flood in history to affect the cities of Fargo and Grand Forks, the largest and third largest cities in North Dakota. NWS is giving a 20% chance that Fargo will see its greatest flood in history, and a 10% chance for Grand Forks.

The situation is similar in Minnesota, which has received about double its normal precipitation over the past 3 to 4 months. Snow depths are generally around 18 inches in the Upper Mississippi watershed, with a high water content. If one were to melt this snow, it would amount to 3.5 - 5.5 inches of rain, which ranks among the wettest snow packs in the 60-year record. NWS is giving a 15% chance that St. Paul will see its highest flood in history this spring.

In South Dakota, heavy snows this winter have also left a snowpack with a high water content, and NWS is predicting a 30% chance that the the James River at Huron, SD and the Big Sioux River at Brookings, SD will reach their highest flood heights in history.


Figure 2. The snow water equivalent of the Upper Midwest's snowpack as of February 18, 2011. Large sections of Minnesota and North Dakota have the equivalent of 3.9 - 5.9 inches of rain (purple colors) stored in their snowpack. Image credit: NWS/NOHRSC.

When will all this flooding occur? Generally, late March through mid-April is the time when the big spring melt occurs. The record 2009 Red River flood peaked on March 28 in Fargo. The great 1997 Red River flood that devastated Grand Forks, causing $3.5 billion in damage, crested on April 18. St. Paul's greatest flood in history crested on April 19, 1965.

I'll have a new post Tuesday or Wednesday.

Jeff Masters

Blinding snowstorm hits Detroit area (MichiganSnowLvr)
The Detroit area was hit with a blinding snowstorm this afternoon and evening, with near zero visibility and thunder/lightning, as the snowfall piles up quickly and deeply.
Blinding snowstorm hits Detroit area

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Quoting aquak9:
grothar (and I do respect you very much) God forbid I ever hafta see the effect of a 6.5 in new madrid.

I think we are starting to realize that the depth may play a greater role than the mag in some cases.


Yes, you are correct. This past horrible event in New Zealand is evident of that. A 6.5 would be catastrophic in that area. (And you know how I much I enjoy your blogs.)
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Quoting TomTaylor:

Yea, me either, but it does make sense, kinda...I have no idea how to explain it.

But it has been shown there is a link. Correlation =/= Causation, but that doesn't mean that Solar activity isn't the cause, that just means that you have to explain it.

only problem right now is, idk if anyone can explain it.

So can anyone on this blog explain it (it being how solar activity leads to greater tectonic plate activity)?


Well yea, obviously, earthquakes don't just happen when the sun decides to flare up.
Could it be like a microwave burst of radiation that causes the earth to swell, then shrink, causing the slip? Kinda far fetched since we are all on this earth and we don't see an effect from solar flares. But maybe it is the nutrinos
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
grothar (and I do respect you very much) God forbid I ever hafta see the effect of a 6.5 in new madrid.

I think we are starting to realize that the depth may play a greater role than the mag in some cases.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25853
Quoting aquak9:


oh...because of the weight of all the melting snow, north of st louis...

all that water weight's gotta go somewhere...just cause we humans have twisted up the mississippi worse than grothar's guts after beer and deviled eggs- well, time will tell, the mississippi will go where it wishes. And the weight will be a lot this year- just READ doc's blog, above.


Ahhh ok, thank you, hate to admit I havent read doc's blog...Im ashamed :( Will now !
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Quoting hydrus:
I never thought there would be a connection with solar activity and seismic activity..Now that I give the idea some thought, it seems possible.

Yea, me either, but it does make sense, kinda...I have no idea how to explain it.

But it has been shown there is a link. Correlation =/= Causation, but that doesn't mean that Solar activity isn't the cause, that just means that you have to explain it.

only problem right now is, idk if anyone can explain it.

So can anyone on this blog explain it (it being how solar activity leads to greater tectonic plate activity)?
Quoting aquak9:
I agree, solar is involved, but there's more to it than that.


Well yea, obviously, earthquakes don't just happen when the sun decides to flare up.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
Quoting Grothar:


If you didn't nap so much in the afternoon, you would be able to read more. (How you doing Canes?)


Doing well, how about you?
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Quoting Grothar:



WELLLLLLL! A very good analysis and quite accurate. If I may add just one little bit to that. Not all of the activity is directly on the New Madrid fault, or any know arm of it. While it is not unusual to have some clusters activity there, it is possible there is an unknown fault. They find them all the time. Aqua was quite correct in the statement of not expecting anything higher than a 4.6, which is well within the parameter of what is expected. However, they do expect that at anytime, the possibility exists of a 6.5 or higher to strike the area. This of course is speculation based upon the frequency of past events.

(Gobi desert) LOL
Good afternoon Gro..All this talk about earthquakes is interesting. About a week ago, the experts warned of unusually high activity underneath Yellowstone National Park. They say it is overdue for an eruption and that it is a Super Volcano.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21039
A 6.5 earthquake is 10x greater than a 5.5...correct?
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:


Ok....and why do you expect to see more in the next 2 months....trying to follow...appreciate you:)


oh...because of the weight of all the melting snow, north of st louis...

all that water weight's gotta go somewhere...just cause we humans have twisted up the mississippi worse than grothar's guts after beer and deviled eggs- well, time will tell, the mississippi will go where it wishes. And the weight will be a lot this year- just READ doc's blog, above.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25853
Last year at this time we were having earthquakes right and left how many were we at this point?
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting aquak9:
grothar ya might got more cracks than the gobi desert, but ya AIN't the seismologist

hahaha neither am I

eyes to sea- that's a really deep area there, bottom (southern)end of the new madrid fault. specifically geologists might define it as ending further to the NE of those last two rumblers, but like I said, new madrid rift runs DEEP. So I imagine it's still gotta lotta weak areas stretching off to the SW.

Also, look at that area in between memphis and little rock (last coupla rumblers in that area have been just north of little rock) that area's a whole old flood plain, probably old glacier path.

I expect to see more rumblers in the new madrid area within the next 2 months- nothing over 4.6- and if he was here, I think keeper would agree.



WELLLLLLL! A very good analysis and quite accurate. If I may add just one little bit to that. Not all of the activity is directly on the New Madrid fault, or any know arm of it. While it is not unusual to have some clusters activity there, it is possible there is an unknown fault. They find them all the time. Aqua was quite correct in the statement of not expecting anything higher than a 4.6, which is well within the parameter of what is expected. However, they do expect that at anytime, the possibility exists of a 6.5 or higher to strike the area. This of course is speculation based upon the frequency of past events.

(Gobi desert) LOL
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Quoting Grothar:



Hey, Eyes. No, I am not home. All I can say is that I am in a very, very cold place right now. I shall be home on Friday. As cold as it is, it is still 1 deg C. warmer than normal, so we cannot entirely rule out global warming (Got to give something for the blog about which to argue). How is the weather by you?


Geezz Grothar, ya gonna have to unthaw Friday.....the weather here has been so nice, make one feel unworthy...lol...but keeper says coming to a halt soon.......EYES to sea for hurricanes...EYES to sky for tornadoes and always EYES to New Madrid...
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Quoting aquak9:
grothar ya might got more cracks than the gobi desert, but ya AIN't the seismologist

hahaha neither am I

eyes to sea- that's a really deep area there, bottom (southern)end of the new madrid fault. specifically geologists might define it as ending further to the NE of those last two rumblers, but like I said, new madrid rift runs DEEP. So I imagine it's still gotta lotta weak areas stretching off to the SW.

Also, look at that area in between memphis and little rock (last coupla rumblers in that area have been just north of little rock) that area's a whole old flood plain, probably old glacier path.

I expect to see more rumblers in the new madrid area within the next 2 months- nothing over 4.6- and if he was here, I think keeper would agree.


Ok....and why do you expect to see more in the next 2 months....trying to follow...appreciate you:)
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I agree, solar is involved, but there's more to it than that.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25853
Quoting EYEStoSEA:


LOL...just read what aqua said her/his studys....Hello Grothar !! Are ya home?



Hey, Eyes. No, I am not home. All I can say is that I am in a very, very cold place right now. I shall be home on Friday. As cold as it is, it is still 1 deg C. warmer than normal, so we cannot entirely rule out global warming (Got to give something for the blog about which to argue). How is the weather by you?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MrMixon:
Well, it's certainly not unheard-of to suggest that solar activity and tectonic activity on Earth are related, but I don't think any verifiable mechanism has been proven.  A quick search yielded at least a couple papers that examine the relationship:

Paper 1

and

Paper 2

Unfortunately, you have to pay for these so I haven't been able to read anything more than the abstracts.  Both papers look like statistical exercises and it seems that neither paper proposes any conclusive mechanism by which solar activity and earthquakes are linked (though the second paper speculates on a couple possible mechanisms).

So, what Rita says may have some truth to it, but I think it is irresponsible (and insensitive to our friends in NZ) to post flip, speculative statements and promotional posters for movies while the rest of us are attempting to understand a very serious situation in which many dozens (at least) have lost their lives.



Quoting hydrus:

Thank you for taking time to post your your info and thoughts...They are appreciated .:)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21039
Quoting caneswatch:


I never knew that before either (SIKE)!


If you didn't nap so much in the afternoon, you would be able to read more. (How you doing Canes?)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting aquak9:
(giggles at hydrus)

you so bad
I never thought there would be a connection with solar activity and seismic activity..Now that I give the idea some thought, it seems possible.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21039
grothar ya might got more cracks than the gobi desert, but ya AIN't the seismologist

hahaha neither am I

eyes to sea- that's a really deep area there, bottom (southern)end of the new madrid fault. specifically geologists might define it as ending further to the NE of those last two rumblers, but like I said, new madrid rift runs DEEP. So I imagine it's still gotta lotta weak areas stretching off to the SW.

Also, look at that area in between memphis and little rock (last coupla rumblers in that area have been just north of little rock) that area's a whole old flood plain, probably old glacier path.

I expect to see more rumblers in the new madrid area within the next 2 months- nothing over 4.6- and if he was here, I think keeper would agree.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25853
Quoting Grothar:


Why ask aqua? I'm the geologist on the blog!!!!!


LOL...just read what aqua said her/his studys....Hello Grothar !! Are ya home?
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Quoting Grothar:


See, aqua, you learn something everyday!


I never knew that before either (SIKE)!
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:
Hi Aqua...I would really like to know your take on the seismic activity in Arkansas....Thanks


Why ask aqua? I'm the geologist on the blog!!!!!
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Quoting aquak9:
hi grothar

hey ritaevac- don't worry, the world will not end in 2012- my mortgage company will not allow it


I know you would enjoy this. One of my favorites:

"....This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper."

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Hi Aqua...I would really like to know your take on the seismic activity in Arkansas....Thanks
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mr mixon- no disrespect intended...I hurt deep

Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25853
Quoting JFLORIDA:
Well stranger than fiction there is a paper in review process related to just that:

Title: Solar wind triggering of geomagnetic disturbances and strong (M>6.8) earthquakes during the November - December 2004 period

Its been studied since the mid sixties too :

Solar activity as a triggering mechanism for earthquakes

still looks to be in a verification phase if it exists.


There are many papers on the subject. Also, they are studying tectonic movements on other planets and moons. The could be a combination of causes of tectonic movement. I never rule out any possibility in science. Here is an interesting link as well:

Link
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thebarcaroller | December 11, 2010
Low Xray and Solar winds continue to indicate the potential for a 6.8+ Magnitude event during this watch period.
First regiions Targeted sits 9-18 Degrees South Latitude:
Main area at risk for significant earthquake are Vanuatu-Loyalty Islands extending to Fiji Region, Southern Peru, Southern Antarctic Ridge and the Mauritius Islands Region. There is also a risk of a Volcanic Eruption in either Ascension Islands or Reunion Islands during this watch period.

Second Target zone sits at 12-18 Degrees North Latitude and the most likely areas at risk are the Cayman Islands region and Caribbean Sea Regions.


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127857
Ahh,but my sources says the Mayan have the Planets Original Deed on File in da Mother Ship leading the Fleet back and they are gonna use it ,..

Plus,,when they ask where all their gold went, Im gonna point at BP and a few others.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127857
Well, it's certainly not unheard-of to suggest that solar activity and tectonic activity on Earth are related, but I don't think any verifiable mechanism has been proven.  A quick search yielded at least a couple papers that examine the relationship:

Paper 1

and

Paper 2

Unfortunately, you have to pay for these so I haven't been able to read anything more than the abstracts.  Both papers look like statistical exercises and it seems that neither paper proposes any conclusive mechanism by which solar activity and earthquakes are linked (though the second paper speculates on a couple possible mechanisms).

So, what Rita says may have some truth to it, but I think it is irresponsible (and insensitive to our friends in NZ) to post flip, speculative statements and promotional posters for movies while the rest of us are attempting to understand a very serious situation in which many dozens (at least) have lost their lives.



Quoting hydrus:
That is interesting. Do you have a link or a site that you can post so I can read it?

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I believe you're correct
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
hi grothar

hey ritaevac- don't worry, the world will not end in 2012- my mortgage company will not allow it
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25853
www.solarcycle24.com

Solar Update - Sunspots 1161 and 1162 are the only visible regions on the earth facing side of the sun. There is currently a chance for C-Class flares.

Sunspot 1161 1162 (Tuesday)



Prepared jointly by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA,
Space Weather Prediction Center and the U.S. Air Force.
Updated 2011 Feb 21 2200 UTC

Joint USAF/NOAA Report of Solar and Geophysical Activity
SDF Number 052 Issued at 2200Z on 21 Feb 2011

IA. Analysis of Solar Active Regions and Activity from 20/2100Z
to 21/2100Z: Solar activity has been low. Region 1161 (N11W42)
produced multiple C-class events and remains an E-type sunspot group
with a beta-gamma magnetic classification, while Region 1162
(N17W46) remained stable and quiet. The periods largest x-ray event
a C7 at 21/1012Z came from Region 1158 which has rotated off the
visible disk.

IB. Solar Activity Forecast: Solar activity is expected to be low
to moderate with a slight chance for an X-class event from Region
1161 for the next three days (22-24 February).

IIA. Geophysical Activity Summary 20/2100Z to 21/2100Z:
The geomagnetic field has been quiet to unsettled during the past 24
hours. Solar wind data from the ACE spacecraft indicated a slight
drop in velocity to around 380 km/s and sustained negative Bz of
-4nT during the period. The greater than 2 MeV electron flux at
geosynchronous orbit reached high levels during the period.

IIB. Geophysical Activity Forecast: The geomagnetic field is
expected to be quiet to unsettled with a slight chance for isolated
active periods during the next three days (22-24 February).

III. Event Probabilities 22 Feb-24 Feb
Class M 50/50/50
Class X 10/10/10
Proton 05/05/05
PCAF Green

IV. Penticton 10.7 cm Flux
Observed 21 Feb 097
Predicted 22 Feb-24 Feb 098/098/095
90 Day Mean 21 Feb 086

V. Geomagnetic A Indices
Observed Afr/Ap 20 Feb 006/007
Estimated Afr/Ap 21 Feb 007/008
Predicted Afr/Ap 22 Feb-24 Feb 007/008-007/008-007/008

VI. Geomagnetic Activity Probabilities 22 Feb-24 Feb
A. Middle Latitudes
Active 10/10/10
Minor storm 05/05/05
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127857
Quoting aquak9:


wow...and all this time I have spent studying slip rate, thrust rate, and global plate tectonics...a waste I say, what a waste...

If I had only known, it was so simple as solar activity.


See, aqua, you learn something everyday!
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Quoting PcolaDan:


When I asked for the original article I received these responses: (one from German speaker one from French speaker) Can't make heads or tails of it, but still trying

Here you can check the solar flers and geomagnetic events:
http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/rt_plots/index.html
The latest fler was at 10:48 UT 2011-02-22 a B6 fler (which is really quite small)
Before it there was a day earlier, 2011-02-21 10:12 UT, it was C7 (still very small)
Even earlier 2011-02-20 there was a C1 at 03:57 UT.
So there was NO any significant fler in the last days. The geomagnetic indexes also remained low, no storm occured. (I must also admit, that there was an X class fler on 14th febr., it was predicted to produce quite big auroral activity but there was NO big auroras, the geomagnetic storm also remained really small…)

http://flux.phys.uit.no/cgi-bin/plotgeodata.cgi?L ast24&site=tro2a&
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/GandF.htm


That's funny, I can understand both of them perfectly. LOL That's the trouble with you monolinguists. (Too early to bust em? How you doing big D??)
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We've been warned
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


Anyway to get that graph for during the haiti and chilean quakes?


Interesting discussion going on about the theory here.
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Yea it's called "2012" movie and it depicts everything and shows exactly how it all happens, great stuff



Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting aquak9:


wow...and all this time I have spent studying slip rate, thrust rate, and global plate tectonics...a waste I say, what a waste...

If I had only known, it was so simple as solar activity.

LOL
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
Quoting bappit:

Levi is beyond sympathizer status.

true
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
(giggles at hydrus)

you so bad
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25853
Quoting RitaEvac:
Any time the sun has solar activity it causes the core of the earth to react which then causes earth crust displacement, which therefore causes earthquakes,
That is interesting. Do you have a link or a site that you can post so I can read it?
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21039
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


Anyway to get that graph for during the haiti and chilean quakes?


When I asked for the original article I received these responses: (one from German speaker one from French speaker) Can't make heads or tails of it, but still trying

Here you can check the solar flers and geomagnetic events:
http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/rt_plots/index.html
The latest fler was at 10:48 UT 2011-02-22 a B6 fler (which is really quite small)
Before it there was a day earlier, 2011-02-21 10:12 UT, it was C7 (still very small)
Even earlier 2011-02-20 there was a C1 at 03:57 UT.
So there was NO any significant fler in the last days. The geomagnetic indexes also remained low, no storm occured. (I must also admit, that there was an X class fler on 14th febr., it was predicted to produce quite big auroral activity but there was NO big auroras, the geomagnetic storm also remained really small…)

http://flux.phys.uit.no/cgi-bin/plotgeodata.cgi?L ast24&site=tro2a&
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/GandF.htm
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Any time the sun has solar activity it causes the core of the earth to react which then causes earth crust displacement, which therefore causes earthquakes,


wow...and all this time I have spent studying slip rate, thrust rate, and global plate tectonics...a waste I say, what a waste...

If I had only known, it was so simple as solar activity.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25853
Any time the sun has solar activity it causes the core of the earth to react which then causes earth crust displacement, which therefore causes earthquakes,
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting PcolaDan:
Interesting! A correlation?



Anyway to get that graph for during the haiti and chilean quakes?
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459. JRRP

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wow. see pictures of the asphalt road. incredible urban damage
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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