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 Jedkins01:
More GW B.S. on the blogs again, you GW fanatics have no life, that makes sense though. I pity the day when science turns on man made GW bringing an end to mankind. What a sobering day that will be for you silly people won't it?



jedkins, that post had no value, you're just really MEAN sometimes, and being MEAN has no value, either.

Sarcasm does nothing, when you are trying to communicate sensibly, or solve a problem. Neither does name-calling, or disrespect.

I see many of your typewritten posts, as you simply being rude, mean, or sarcastic, and using those literary flavors to enhance your words.

It doesn't work, young man. We see you as an ANGRY young man, not an INTELLIGENT one.

Prayers in for Christchurch, all of NZ, and all the humans in that area of the world.
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Morning all. Death toll at Christchurch at 65 confirmed, but expected to rise to as high as 400 in the area. A lot of people still seem to be trapped in various buildings.
And this report: 10.01pm – There are reports from Cashmere that some houses in the lower area of the suburb have been broken into and burgled. simply proves that humanity is humanity everywhere. I recall international reporters being "shocked" that there was so little looting immediately after last year's earthquake in Haiti. I was just waiting to see how long it would take for the lowlifes of Christchurch to rear their heads.... I knew it was just a matter of time.

In wx related news, it seems TC Utu is still slowly making its way southward...
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Quoting presslord:
The events in Libya are seriously upstaging the NZ earthquake on our major media


Yeah, air force pilots being orders to bomb citizens, army opening fire on protesters, diplomats leaving, the leader of Libya saying that he and his supporters will fight until the last bullet... scary scary stuff...
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Quoting Jedkins01:
More GW B.S. on the blogs again, you GW fanatics have no life, that makes sense though. I pity the day when science turns on man made GW bringing an end to mankind. What a sobering day that will be for you silly people won't it?



Science has proven that man is contributing to the warmth of our planet.

I pity the day you decide to listen to common sense for once. What a sobering day that will be for you, won't it?
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
Quoting caneswatch:


I see. The news, whether good, bad or interesting, has been plentiful tonight. I'm off to bed now. Night y'all.



Night, Bud. I'm off as well.

Hoping the news is better, tomorrow....
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Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:


Same here. I was grabbed by forces of nature....



I see. The news, whether good, bad or interesting, has been plentiful tonight. I'm off to bed now. Night y'all.
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Quoting RecordSeason:


Actually, I have shown videos which demonstrated the incredible power of somethng as simple as a color change, which is far, FAR more powerful and immediate than anything imaginable from CO2.

Observe the power of black paint, absorbing so much light that it heats the target to 80f above ambient, and heats forced air to 45f above ambient. No insulation involved.

The power of black paint. Skip to 11:00 mark for the good stuff.

The air is being pumped by a vacuum cleaner running reverse cycle, and it gets so hot it burns his hands as he tries to measure the temperature.

This is in open air with no insulation.

Compared to THIS, CO2 is chump change and does not even matter.

You can also check my claims regarding asphault for yourself, especially in a few months as we get into spring and summer.

Thermal camera. Pavement is 23 degrees above ambient. Car dash is 150f with the windows DOWN.



And once again, you fail to grasp the fundamental physics. You continue to go on and on about asphalt and glass and paint. But you ignore the single largest heat sink on earth that is many orders of magnitude larger than anything man made. It's called the ocean, and that is where just about all the extra heat has been going.

Any land based heat sinks emit their energy in the span of minutes to hours. Compared to the shear heat capacity and length of time the ocean can hang onto heat, land impacts from man made structures hardly register.

Let's compare one of your favorite materials, fresh black asphalt, to open ocean water.

Albedo:
Fresh Asphalt: .04
Ocean Water: .06

Specific Heat:
Fresh Asphalt: 920 J/kgC
Ocean Water: ~4000 J/kgC

Surface Area:
Asphalt*: 6.3*10^6 km^2
Ocean: 3.6x10^8 km^2

*Asphalt estimation took the total miles of US roads with an average of a 30 ft width, then multiplied by 100 to encompass the rest of the world which is a gross exaggeration.

Average depth:
Asphalt: .127 meters
Ocean: 4000 meters

You don't even need to do the math to see what's going to happen, and that's with exaggerating how much asphalt there is.





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Quoting caneswatch:


Very well, about to head off to bed in a bit. How's it for you?


Same here. I was grabbed by forces of nature....

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Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:



Hello, friend! I concur. Been a bit.

How does this evening find you?


Very well, about to head off to bed in a bit. How's it for you?
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Quoting caneswatch:


Hello there friend! Haven't seen you on in a while.



Hello, friend! I concur. Been a bit.

How does this evening find you?
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Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:



Thanks, Pat. Appreciate the link!


Hello there friend! Haven't seen you on in a while.
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One last on the Joe B. firing..comes to mind.

The Emperor had no Clothes

Ciao

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
Quoting AussieStorm:


Thank you for the images and info.
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Quoting Patrap:
This stunt did in Joe B.

And those who knew of this figured it would be his demise,,and it was.


Long wrong Joe Bastardi cooks the books to smear NSIDC. Time for Accuweather to fire him.
National Snow & Ice Data Center explains Bastardi can't read graphs and "is unclear as to how standardized anomalies are derived"
December 5, 2010



Thanks, Pat. Appreciate the link!
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Good night.
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Quoting Levi32:
JB is a brilliant meteorologist. People like him are completely entitled to their opinions on AGW, and that should never be a reason to fire him. His long-range forecasts are forecasts that nobody else dares to make, and he's right a good portion of the time. His main focus in his job has nothing to do with AGW, but weather forecasting for the U.S. and Europe, which he has done a very fine job of. JB is only subjective in some aspects of his AGW beliefs, but as a meteorologist he is one of the best in the business. Tarnishing his name here only tarnishes yours, as many people speaking in this blog have shown tremendous inability to be objective and fair.

He seems a tad too narcissistic for my taste, thinking more of himself than really serving the public.
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Quoting presslord:
The events in Libya are seriously upstaging the NZ earthquake on our major media



Fires to put out all over....

Dang it!!
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Hummmmmm, how do the CME's, and other parts of solar flares, impact Gravity through magnetism, and such? As it relates to quakes/ I wonder?????? Can't find anything on it ............



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The events in Libya are seriously upstaging the NZ earthquake on our major media
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Geez... I'd hate to be a New Zealander from the Christchurch area who is far away from home and not able to do more than watch these images.... heartbreaking.





Absolutely!
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Quoting pottery:
That is a Horrible event in Christchurch.
Thoughts and Prayers from here.



Agreed!!

Evening, Pot....
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Geez... I'd hate to be a New Zealander from the Christchurch area who is far away from home and not able to do more than watch these images.... heartbreaking.


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That is a Horrible event in Christchurch.
Thoughts and Prayers from here.
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379. xcool
, February 21, 2011 at 5:05pm
Farewell to Joe Bastardi who has left AccuWeather after a distinguished 32-year career. We appreciate Joe’s dedicated service to our clients over these many years and wish him luck with all his endeavors. In addition, a hearty congratulations to two great meteorologists who will both be taking on expanded roles -- Paul Pastelok is now leader of A
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378. xcool
did you all hear J/B resigned from accuweather .i d'not know if true.
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I'm off to work, Everyone have a good night, play nice. Be back in about 9hrs.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15932
Quoting cchsweatherman:


I'm going to spread that on Facebook.

I hope it spreads like wild fire, they will need alot of help for a long time. Just like Haiti
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15932
Quoting AussieStorm:
If anyone wants to help now. Here is the best way.


I'm going to spread that on Facebook.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5163
Here is another live stream. no geo block
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15932
Quoting AussieStorm:



Like I said, this is a bad one. G'nite. 5 comes early.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quakes everywhere, bad news today and things look ugly....

Planet could be 'unrecognizable' by 2050, experts say
Sun Feb 20, 3:05 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) %u2013 A growing, more affluent population competing for ever scarcer resources could make for an "unrecognizable" world by 2050, researchers warned at a major US science conference Sunday.
The United Nations has predicted the global population will reach seven billion this year, and climb to nine billion by 2050, "with almost all of the growth occurring in poor countries, particularly Africa and South Asia," said John Bongaarts of the non-profit Population Council.
To feed all those mouths, "we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000," said Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
"By 2050 we will not have a planet left that is recognizable" if current trends continue, Clay said.
The swelling population will exacerbate problems, such as resource depletion, said John Casterline, director of the Initiative in Population Research at Ohio State University.
But incomes are also expected to rise over the next 40 years -- tripling globally and quintupling in developing nations -- and add more strain to global food supplies.
People tend to move up the food chain as their incomes rise, consuming more meat than they might have when they made less money, the experts said.
It takes around seven pounds (3.4 kilograms) of grain to produce a pound of meat, and around three to four pounds of grain to produce a pound of cheese or eggs, experts told AFP.
"More people, more money, more consumption, but the same planet," Clay told AFP, urging scientists and governments to start making changes now to how food is produced.
Population experts, meanwhile, called for more funding for family planning programs to help control the growth in the number of humans, especially in developing nations.
"For 20 years, there's been very little investment in family planning, but there's a return of interest now, partly because of the environmental factors like global warming and food prices," said Bongaarts.
"We want to minimize population growth, and the only viable way to do that is through more effective family planning," said Casterline.


AND....

LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters): Brent crude oil prices hit $108 a barrel for the first time since 2008 on Monday on fears that spiraling violence in Libya could lead to wider supply disruptions from the OPEC member.

U.S. oil prices led the rally to jump by more than $5, the most in over two years, as traders also rushed to cover short positions in the key Brent/WTI spread, which had blown out to a record $16 a barrel. The April spread narrowed to $10 during the day, but widened to over $12 in after-hours trade.
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If anyone wants to help now. Here is the best way.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15932
This is utter devastation that has not been seen since the Haitian Earthquake nearly 13 months ago. In some video I have been seeing, you can see the gruesome injuries and unfortunately bodies within the rubble. I send my best wishes to those devastated by this disaster.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5163
Quoting PcolaDan:


Person on Twitter made a comment about boots being the footwear of the day now. You can see a picture of the liquification here.

Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15932
Quoting Levi32:


Which implies smaller dewpoint depressions, but does not necessarily imply an increase in precipitation.


Correct. I've stated before that increased WV does not necessarily mean increased precipitation. There's a lot of other factors involved in whether or not precipitation forms.
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Here is a link to a photo gallery of today's quake
Link
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15932
Quoting WaterWitch11:
1.58pm There is huge amounts of silt and liquefaction is bubbling up around people's legs. People are getting out of their cars and abandoning them.


Person on Twitter made a comment about boots being the footwear of the day now. You can see a picture of the liquification here.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Good Lord. Thoughts and prayers to everyone effected by this earthquake.
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.