Spring snowstorm adds to flooding potential for the Midwest

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:52 PM GMT on March 24, 2011

Share this Blog
4
+

A major spring snowstorm dumped heavy snow in excess of six inches over a wide swath of the Upper Midwest this week, adding to a snowpack that is already near or in excess of record levels over Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. This is bad news for residents in flood-prone areas of the Upper Midwest, as the new storm added more than half an inch of melted rainfall equivalent to the record wet snowpack. When all that snow melts in April, we can expect major and possibly record flooding for North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and the Upper Mississippi River north of St. Louis, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Their March Spring Flood Outlook released last week warned: A large swath of the North Central United States is at risk of moderate to major flooding this spring. Heavy late summer and autumn precipitation have left soils saturated and streams running high before the winter freeze-up. National Weather Service models show this year's snowpack contains a water content ranked among the highest of the last 60 years, which is similar to the past two years. This threat area extends from northeastern Montana through Wisconsin and along the Mississippi River south to St. Louis. For the third consecutive year, forecasters predict major flooding along the Red River of the North, which forms the state line between eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. Other areas of the Midwest primed for major flooding include Devils Lake in North Dakota, the Milk River in Northeastern Montana, the James and Big Sioux Rivers in South Dakota, the Minnesota River, and the Mississippi River from its headwaters near St. Paul, Minnesota, downstream to St. Louis.


Figure 1. U.S. spring 2011 flood risk. Image credit: NWS.


Figure 2. NOAA's latest significant river flood outlook shows that spring flooding is already occurring over South Dakota and on the Mississippi River near its junction with the Ohio River, but is not yet widespread across the Upper Midwest.

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 - 6 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 35% chance that Fargo will see its greatest flood in history this spring, up from the 20% chance they gave in their February spring flood outlook.

The situation is similar in Minnesota, which has received about double its normal precipitation over the past 3 to 4 months, resulting in the 5th snowiest winter on record in Minneapolis. Snow depths are in excess of 20 inches over wide swaths of of the state, and this snow has a very high water content equivalent to 4 - 6 inches of rain. NWS is giving a 95% chance that the Mississippi River at St. Paul will exceed major flood stage this spring.

In South Dakota, heavy snows this winter have also left a snowpack with a high water content over the northeast corner of the state. The NWS is predicting a 25% chance that the the James River at Huron, SD will reach its highest flood height in history, and a 50% chance for the Big Sioux River at Brookings, SD.


Figure 3. The snow water equivalent of the Upper Midwest's snowpack as of March 24, 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?
The latest guidance from the GFS model predicts winter-like conditions will persist over the Upper Midwest for the next week, with no major storms for the region through early next week. Late next week, there is the potential for a snowstorm that could bring an additional 0.5 - 1" of melted equivalent snow, though this is very uncertain at this point. The first chance of a major thaw will not occur until Sunday, April 3. This will give some time for the current pulse of flood waters generated during last week's warm spell over South Dakota and southern Minnesota to move downstream, and makes the peak of this year's spring flood unlikely to occur until at least the second week of April. Looking back at past great floods in the Upper Midwest, 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 expect this year's peak flood will most likely arrive during the 3rd week of April.

Mostly offshore winds expected over Japan for the next week
Radioactive plumes emitted from Japan's troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant will mostly head eastwards out to sea over the next week, thanks to high pressure that will dominate Japan's weather. Latest trajectory plots using NOAA's HYSPLIT model do not show air from the Fukushima plant heading towards Tokyo over the next four days.

Jeff Masters

Not liking Spring (all4paws)
10 inches of snow today. Not good if you're a robin.
Not liking Spring
Spring? (jf)
Spring?
Spring?

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 646 - 596

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23Blog Index

Capt. Steven Hiller:
[T]his was supposed to be my weekend off, but no. You got me out here dragging your heavy ass through the desert, with your dreadlocks sticking out the back of my parachute. You got to come down here with an attitude, acting all big and bad. And, what the Hell is that smell?!
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
some days...this about the only thing a'keepin' me sane...
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 177 Comments: 26633
Speaking of Earthquakes, this is what one sounds like on Steel Drums....
From 1994.


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


That is about the nicest thing you ever said to me. At least I have one friend on here.


Well we were allies once in a Cold war, I mean it wasnt like Alexander's thing but we kicked some Mack-O butt eh?
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129833
Quoting Patrap:
Television Reporter: Is there a specific instance in an airplane emergency when you can recall fear?


Jim Lovell: Uh well, I'll tell ya, I remember this one time - I'm in a Banshee at night in combat conditions, so there's no running lights on the carrier. It was the Shrangri-La, and we were in the Sea of Japan and my radar had jammed, and my homing signal was gone... because somebody in Japan was actually using the same frequency. And so it was - it was leading me away from where I was supposed to be. And I'm lookin' down at a big, black ocean, so I flip on my map light, and then suddenly: zap. Everything shorts out right there in my cockpit. All my instruments are gone. My lights are gone. And I can't even tell now what my altitude is. I know I'm running out of fuel, so I'm thinking about ditching in the ocean. And I, I look down there, and then in the darkness there's this uh, there's this green trail. It's like a long carpet that's just laid out right beneath me. And it was the algae, right? It was that phosphorescent stuff that gets churned up in the wake of a big ship. And it was - it was - it was leading me home. You know? If my cockpit lights hadn't shorted out, there's no way I'd ever been able to see that. So uh, you, uh, never know... what... what events are to transpire to get you home.




good one.....

Here is another Classic

President Thomas J. Whitmore:
In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And, you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. "Mankind," that word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interest. Perhaps, it's fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom--not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution, but from annihilation. We're fighting for our right to live--to exist. And, should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice: "We will not go quietly into the night. We will not vanish, without a fight. We're going to live on. We're going to survive. Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!"
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
Quoting pottery:

How can you say that?
It's always the same with you. You make these completely false statements that have no basis in fact.
I will have you know, that everyone here argues with you all the time.
It's just that you are too old and daft to realise it.


That is about the nicest thing you ever said to me. At least I have one friend on here.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Television Reporter: Is there a specific instance in an airplane emergency when you can recall fear?


Jim Lovell: Uh well, I'll tell ya, I remember this one time - I'm in a Banshee at night in combat conditions, so there's no running lights on the carrier. It was the Shrangri-La, and we were in the Sea of Japan and my radar had jammed, and my homing signal was gone... because somebody in Japan was actually using the same frequency. And so it was - it was leading me away from where I was supposed to be. And I'm lookin' down at a big, black ocean, so I flip on my map light, and then suddenly: zap. Everything shorts out right there in my cockpit. All my instruments are gone. My lights are gone. And I can't even tell now what my altitude is. I know I'm running out of fuel, so I'm thinking about ditching in the ocean. And I, I look down there, and then in the darkness there's this uh, there's this green trail. It's like a long carpet that's just laid out right beneath me. And it was the algae, right? It was that phosphorescent stuff that gets churned up in the wake of a big ship. And it was - it was - it was leading me home. You know? If my cockpit lights hadn't shorted out, there's no way I'd ever been able to see that. So uh, you, uh, never know... what... what events are to transpire to get you home.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129833
Quoting Patrap:
Currently Active Tropical Cyclones



SH192011 - Tropical Cyclone BUNE

Enhanced Infrared (IR) Imagery (4 km Mercator)





Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery

That's a pretty one...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting pottery:
Have we hurt Gro's feelings?
Or is he planning a counter-attack?


It's Nap time :)

I gotta go too ~~ L8R

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Currently Active Tropical Cyclones



SH192011 - Tropical Cyclone BUNE

Enhanced Infrared (IR) Imagery (4 km Mercator)





Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129833
Have we hurt Gro's feelings?
Or is he planning a counter-attack?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Patrap:


A Bonus Page Link too Pottery

www.nhc.noaa.gov/satellite.shtml

Thankee!
Dont need much more than that one.
Appreciated.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Ossqss:


Did you mean Weather Repoted? :)


Its only a 60mile toss with that frig from Sarasota.....LOL
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
Quoting Ossqss:


Did you mean Weather Repoted? :)

:):)
But I should have said Repotted.
Obviously.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
We have had invest in May like the last 3 outta 4 years I do believe..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129833


A Bonus Page Link too Pottery

www.nhc.noaa.gov/satellite.shtml
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129833
          Are they gonna have to change the hurricane season to May 1st to Dec.30th  because of Global warming? 
Member Since: June 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1497
Quoting pottery:


Repoted.


Did you mean Weather Repoted? :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
LOL, Pat.
Very Nice...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Stormblogger: Let me see your identification.

Obi-Wan: [with a small wave of his hand] You don't need to see his identification.

Stormblogger: We don't need to see his identification.

Obi-Wan: These aren't the droids you're looking for.

Stormblogger: These aren't the droids we're looking for.

Obi-Wan: He can go about his business.

Stormblogger: You can go about your business.

Obi-Wan: Move along.

Stormblogger:Move along... move along.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129833
Quoting twincomanche:
Goes to prove the the evil Koch Brothers anti-Christ people are not nearly as influential as the paranoid liberal class thinks they are.

No, it goes to prove that even the evil and extremely deep-pocketed Koch Brothers can only spin and twist the fundamental facts so far.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13797
Quoting pottery:

How can you say that?
It's always the same with you. You make these completely false statements that have no basis in fact.
I will have you know, that everyone here argues with you all the time.
It's just that you are too old and daft to realise it.


Repoted.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Why is it no one ever argues with me? I feel left out.

How can you say that?
It's always the same with you. You make these completely false statements that have no basis in fact.
I will have you know, that everyone here argues with you all the time.
It's just that you are too old and daft to realise it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
618. BtnTx
Quoting Grothar:


That's your opinion. (I rather enjoy this)
but where are the facts to back up your opinion?
Member Since: October 12, 2001 Posts: 20 Comments: 892
I find your lack of faith disturbing.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129833
        A great humanitarian once said  " can't we all just get along"  Rodney King
Member Since: June 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1497
Quoting Skyepony:


How about the results of the Berkley BEST research, the "totally transparent" study funded by Koch among other skeptics? Recently paraded by Watts and several here even as a soon to come end to the falsified data.. Finally we get some results..where's the parade?


Climatologist Ken Caldeira sent out the following email message for publication..

I have seen a copy of the Berkeley group%u2019s draft paper, which of course would be expected to be revised before submission.

Their preliminary results sit right within the results of NOAA, NASA, and HadCRU, confirming that prior analyses were correct in every way that matters. Their results confirm the reality of global warming and support in all essential respects the historical temperature analyses of the NOAA, NASA, and HadCRU.

Their analysis supports the view that there is no fire behind the smokescreen put up by climate science deniers.


Caldeira helped fund the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study, but didn%u2019t participate in it.

Yeah, I saw that the other day. The bottom line of the preliminary drfat: "We are seeing substantial global warming". And that is based on only land temperatures, whereas the vast bulk of heating has been in the oceans.

It's going to be interesting to see how this is spun by the very denialists who funded and undertook the research, as well as the tens of thousands of desperately hopeful denialists who were anxiously awaiting the full results with finger crossed. I suppose there'll be a sudden change of heart, with the more moderate ones calling into question the procedures used, and the lesser educated ones claiming that anything from "them liberals at Berkeley" must be suspect--even though the study was paid for in very large part by those Denialists Supreme, the Koch Brothers.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13797
Quoting flsky:
Well, since we're about the same age, I'll argue with you if you'd like. Any particular topic?



None that I can think of.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting BtnTx:
I cannot believe you said that and suggest you take it back immediately!


That's your opinion. (I rather enjoy this)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
611. flsky
Well, since we're about the same age, I'll argue with you if you'd like. Any particular topic?

Quoting Grothar:


Why is it no one ever argues with me? I feel left out.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting twincomanche:
It's not worthwhile to argue with really old people. They don't understand your arguments.


We understand more than you think. And your name was?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
609. flsky
Truely frightening....

Quoting PcolaDan:
OMG

Never saw this one before. Camera person must have been scared $hi*less. First surge, then seems to settle down, then another, and another, and so on, until... OH CRAP!!!!!!!!

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TampaSpin:



Take your meds bro..........LOL


OK , toss me one :)

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
grothar- everyone is arguing with you

it's the alzheimers, dude
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 177 Comments: 26633
605. BtnTx
Quoting Grothar:


Why is it no one ever argues with me? I feel left out.
I cannot believe you said that and suggest you take it back immediately!
Member Since: October 12, 2001 Posts: 20 Comments: 892
602. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting SteveGoddard1:


I totally agree. On this blog, however, anyone who doesn't toe the AGW line is criticized whether it be directly or with snide remarks even when the facts demonstrate that those responsible for the AGW "science" have been shown to falsify or massage the data.


How about the results of the Berkley BEST research, the "totally transparent" study funded by Koch among other skeptics? Recently paraded by Watts and several here even as a soon to come end to the falsified data.. Finally we get some results..where's the parade?


Climatologist Ken Caldeira sent out the following email message for publication..

I have seen a copy of the Berkeley group’s draft paper, which of course would be expected to be revised before submission.

Their preliminary results sit right within the results of NOAA, NASA, and HadCRU, confirming that prior analyses were correct in every way that matters. Their results confirm the reality of global warming and support in all essential respects the historical temperature analyses of the NOAA, NASA, and HadCRU.

Their analysis supports the view that there is no fire behind the smokescreen put up by climate science deniers.


Caldeira helped fund the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study, but didn’t participate in it.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 224 Comments: 39372
Quoting twincomanche:
I see we are having fun tonight boys and girls.


Why is it no one ever argues with me? I feel left out.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
same as it ever was, same as it ever was

hi amy

you rain WAS deleivered to the wrong address, I checked
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 177 Comments: 26633
Well, I gave him 15 minutes to clarify things. He did not. Speaks for itself.

Yes, I do have a very active real life also. How did I get here! :)

Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 646 - 596

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23Blog Index

Top of Page

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.

Local Weather

Overcast
27 °F
Overcast

JeffMasters's Recent Photos

Lake Effort Snow Shower Over Windsor, Ontario
Sunset on Dunham Lake
Pictured Rocks Sunset
Sunset on Lake Huron