Spring snowstorm adds to flooding potential for the Midwest

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

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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?

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GFDL updates acomin:

Effective Tuesday, May 17, 2011, beginning with the 1200
Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) run, the National Centers for
Environmental Prediction (NCEP) will upgrade the Geophysical
Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) Hurricane Prediction System.
The scientific changes to the model include the following:

- Upgrade Simplified Arakawa-Schubert (SAS) deep convection
parameterization to new version implemented in the NCEP
Global Forecast System (GFS)
- Modify the surface enthalpy exchange coefficient and
dissipative heating effect
- Expand coupled region in the Eastern Atlantic domain
to prevent storms from losing coupling effect with the
ocean due to insufficient overlap with the Western Atlantic
region. The new overlap will be 25 degrees.
- Correct several bugs in the model.

In testing, these improvements resulted in an average reduction
of forecast error of about 20 percent in the Atlantic basin for
the 3 to 5 day forecast period for tests of storms from the 2010
Atlantic hurricane season.

Product Changes:

The following will be added to the GFDL model output GRIB files:

Model-predicted 10 meter winds will be outputted in addition to
the lowest model level 35 meter winds.

The GFDL hurricane model GRIB products are disseminated via the
NCEP and NWS FTP servers and are not available on NOAAPORT or
AWIPS. These changes will result in no change in product
dissemination time. There will be only a minor increase in
product size.

atmo: 20% ? That's significant. (Assuming that is track forecast error...I guess.)
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Quoting Grothar:


Yes,it would be like the night I told Mrs. Grothar I was playing poker.


Did Mrs. Grothar "up the ante"?
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342. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Fiji Meteorological Services
Tropical Disturbance Advisory #12
SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE BUNE (13F)
0:00 AM FST March 26 2011
==========================================

At 12:00 PM UTC, Severe Tropical Cyclone Bune, Category Three (969 hPa) located at 22.5S 179.6W is reported as moving south southwest at 4 knots. 10 minute sustained winds near the center is 70 knots. Position poor based on multispectral enhanced infrared radar imagery and peripheral surface observations.

Hurricane Force Winds
====================
30 NM from the center

Storm Force Winds
=================
50 NM from the center

Gale Force Winds
================
80 NM in southwest quadrant
100 NM in southeast quadrant
150 NM in northeast quadrant
80 NM in northwest quadrant

Organization has improved with slow development occurring in the past 24 hours. System lies under a diffluent region in a low shear environment, favorable for further development. Outflow restricted to the west of the system but appears good elsewhere. Sea surface temperature is around 28C. Severe TC BUNE has adopted a slight southwest track in the past 12 hours due to the influence of the mid level ridge east of the system being more dominant.

Dvorak assessment based on curved band pattern of 0.95 wrap, giving DT=4.0, MET=4.0, and PT=4.5.

Dvorak Intensity: T4.0/4.5/D0.5/24HRS

Global models are continuing to develop the system while adopting a southwesterly track during the next 24 hours.

Forecast and Intensity
=======================
12 HRS: 22.8S 180.0E - 70 knots (CAT 3)
24 HRS: 23.2S 179.4E - 70 knots (CAT 3)
48 HRS: 24.5S 178.7E - 75 knots (CAT 3)

The next Tropical Disturbance Advisory from Fiji Meteorological Services will be issued at 20:00 PM UTC.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 45307
332.

Um... huh? I don't understand what you are trying to say, as it doesn't make sense.
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Here's latest from IAEA Link


BTW, there was a 6.4 aftershock there a few hours ago
Link
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Quoting Skyepony:
What's burning in FL map..


What's the difference between a "fire incident" and an "other incident"?
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Dangerous Breach Feared at Japanese Nuke Plant
Setback at Fukushima Nuclear Plant as Japanese Officials Suspect Dangerous Breach

3 comments
By KEVIN DOLAK
March 25, 2011



A possible breach of the reactor core at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant could lead to further contamination in what would be a major setback to efforts to bring the post-earthquake crisis under control, Japanese officials said today.



The uncertainty led to work being halted again today at the nuclear complex 150 miles northeast of Tokyo, where dozens of people have been working to cool reactors at the overheating plant.

A somber Prime Minister Naoto Kan today called the situation "grave and serious," adding "we are not in a position to be optimistic."

"We must remain vigilant," Kan said. "We must treat every development with the utmost care.

"We are working closely with local governments and stepping up our monitoring efforts and increasing monitoring [of radiation] and will disclose results promptly. We are committed to transparency," Kan said.

The possible breach was suspected when two workers waded into water 10,000 times more radioactive than normal and suffered skin burns, according to the Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency.

"It is possible there may be damage somewhere in the reactor," spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said, adding that the cause of the burns still remains unclear.

Nishiyama said there is no data suggesting there were any cracks, and that a leak in the plumbing or the vents could be the cause.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Japan reached a milestone as NHK broadcasting reported the latest estimates of 10,175 people dead and more than 17,400 still missing since the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami rattled the country March 11.

The U.S. military is now taking a direct role in attempts to cool reactors at the damaged nuclear plant, according to U.S. and Japanese officials.

As a first step, the U.S. military plans to ship 525,000 gallons of fresh water on two U.S. Navy barges from a U.S. base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Forces Japan.

Other U.S. support initiatives are also under consideration, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128314
10 Great Error Messages

#1

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Quoting Neapolitan:

You're correct in saying that the Japanese government wants to avoid a panic; that would definitely be counterproductive on top of a c. 25,000 death / $310 billion dollar disaster. But given what I know of governments and mega-corporations and their far-too-cozy relationships, I doubt that panic avoidance is the only reason they've been--and likely still are--downplaying the seriousness of the situation there. Simply put, truthful bad news is bad for the corporate bottom line, so it's best to hide the truth as much as humanly possible--even when the entire world knows you're lying. (See: BP).


Yes,it would be like the night I told Mrs. Grothar I was playing poker.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26150
Quoting Grothar:


I can understand that they do not want to cause panic, because that can be counter-productive. However, if the situation is worse than they are claiming, that could lead to many more people being put in harm's way. I agree. With this situation, the truth is the only way to go.

You're correct in saying that the Japanese government wants to avoid a panic; that would definitely be counterproductive on top of a c. 25,000 death / $310 billion dollar disaster. But given what I know of governments and mega-corporations and their far-too-cozy relationships, I doubt that panic avoidance is the only reason they've been--and likely still are--downplaying the seriousness of the situation there. Simply put, truthful bad news is bad for the corporate bottom line, so it's best to hide the truth as much as humanly possible--even when the entire world knows you're lying. (See: BP).
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13537
Quoting TomTaylor:
yea run and hide buddy

Unless of course you want to prove to me the earth isn't warming. Or that humans aren't partly responsible.

But OF COURSE, you can't. So go on your way to bed now.


It's no different then claiming the earth is the center of the universe. You have no proof, and all evidence suggests otherwise. And yet you wonder why we yell at you.

Wake up already


The earth actually is the center of the universe, advanced physics required but I'm sure any google monkey can look it up on some legitimate website.

Also, you can't prove a negative. And evidence that suggests something isn't even remotely proof of anything so there's really nothing to disprove in the first place.

THAT'S the problem, people with remedial science skills try to preach about global warming when they wouldn't know how to run the simplest experiment correctly. Never mind interpreting the data without including some painfully obvious sample bias. Makes me sick to keep seeing it over and over.

I see these plots of around 20C (yes that's a TWENTY) temperature swings over the history of the planet and people are up in arms over something bordering on statistical noise based on a lot of questionable data.

Wake up indeed
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I see the rain forecast has increased to four days for the Florida Panhandle. Two fires, one on Eglin AFB, which has burned 3,700 acres in Okaloosa and Walton counties . The other north of Crestview burned 250 acres as of Thursday night. Though I will admit the smell of oak wood has me wanting to fire up the grill tonight, after work.
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Here is a different view point of the Hempfield Tornado Neo posted.
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Quoting Grothar:


I can understand that they do not want to cause panic, because that can be counter-productive. However, if the situation is worse than they are claiming, that could lead to many more people being put in harm's way. I agree. With this situation, the truth is the only way to go.


Japan can't be stupid and risk people's lifes. The truth needs to come out, and now.
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Quoting aquak9:
hi gro- can't handle links here at work]

reading little hints and rumors...things ain't so good as they want us to believe?


Like I said. I hope they are wrong. Things do not look that good at the moment. I do not have any information on how these constant after-shocks have affected the integrity of the reactors or structures, but I am sure it is not helping any.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26150
Quoting caneswatch:


Exactly. I remember the U.S. said that the situation is worse than Japan is letting on last week. Japan needs to step up and say the whole truth and nothing but it.


I can understand that they do not want to cause panic, because that can be counter-productive. However, if the situation is worse than they are claiming, that could lead to many more people being put in harm's way. I agree. With this situation, the truth is the only way to go.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26150
Quoting hydrus:
Very busy..Way too many storms here. We have sustained major tree damage. Lost two from lightening strikes, and two more may have so much damage they may not survive..It is a bummer, they were nice trees...One Cherry, two Maples and a locust. I have one huge Poplar that was damaged but should pull through...At one time, this property had the largest poplar tree in area. It was killed by lightening 50 years ago. The stump is still there and is about 5 feet in diameter. Musta been a cool lookin tree..I am going to check some models and see if Florida will get some rain.


Sorry to hear that, hydrus. Saw a number of them over your area the past few weeks. Been a very strange year all over. I have been back to Europe a few times and they are complaining of the same thing. Very strange weather in Scandinavia, Great Britain, Spain, and Germany as well. Very odd storms and weather patterns.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26150
Again we're hearing various "experts" and government officials chiming in on the situation in Japan, and as usual there isn't a whole lot of either consistency or comfort to their words.

PM Kan says that the situation at the Fukushima plant remains "grave", "serious", and "unpredictable".

But nuclear industry officials say that things are stabilizing, with 1/3 of the stricken reactors "safe".

But some point out the two "safe" reactors--#5 and #6--were never really the issue anyway.

But the Japanese government agrees with the nuclear industry to some extent, saying, yes, the worst seems to have passed.

But then the government "suggests" that people within 30km of the plant evacuate.

But then the government backs away a bit, saying that evacuation is only an option.

But they still suggest it--even though things are far better than they were.

There are signs that the core of one of the reactors has been breached.

But nuclear industry types say that's not likely, and everything is fine.

But some say that the type and quantity of some of the radiation leaking out could only come from a core breach.

But TEPCO says, no, the radiation isn't from the core.

But some ask if it's not coming from the core, where is it coming from?

But TEPCO and the pro-nuclear people say they're not sure--though they know it's not from the core.

But some demand that TEPCO and the government find out where the radiation is coming from, and stop it.

But pro-nuclear types say, while they will find the leak, the radiation leaking out isn't dangerous to anyone, so it's really no big deal.

But others wonder why, if it's no big deal, radiation is contaminating the ocean, seafood, the countryside, produce and livestock, and the air, and because of that, several countries have stopped imports from Japan, and the Japanese government is asking its own citizens to avoid certain foodstuffs.

But TEPCO and pro-nuclear people swear it's all precautionary, and it's based on uneducated hyperbole.

But some suggest that over the next years, there will very likely be a discernible rise in certain types of cancer and birth defects for those in the affected area.

But the pro-nuclear types will swear there is absolutely no correlation between those cancers and birth defects and the Fukushima incident.

And the status quo will be maintained, for corporate profits must be sustained.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13537
hi gro- can't handle links here at work]

reading little hints and rumors...things ain't so good as they want us to believe?
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 166 Comments: 25936
Quoting Grothar:
I hope those new readings at the plant in Japan are incorrect. There have been many conflicting reports this morning. I would think that by this time, they would be a little more forthcoming about the real situation. This is no time for them to be playing games.


Exactly. I remember the U.S. said that the situation is worse than Japan is letting on last week. Japan needs to step up and say the whole truth and nothing but it.
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If the GFS were to pan out, Florida would get some decent rain. More severe for us though...Link
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21227
Quoting cat5hurricane:

Which readings, Gro?


This one!

Link
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26150
Link............ NOGAPS has rain for Florida...
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21227
I hope those new readings at the plant in Japan are incorrect. There have been many conflicting reports this morning. I would think that by this time, they would be a little more forthcoming about the real situation. This is no time for them to be playing games.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26150
Quoting RastaSteve:
Look at this and this only goes thru Wednesday. Much more rain to follow after Wednesday and maybe a very significant severe wx event for FL next Friday. Could be a dangerous day for FL coming.

http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/qpf/p120i12.gif


Thank you wishcaster Jeff6941, CFLWX, MagicFan or any other banned name you have.
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Quoting Grothar:


How has the weather been by you hydrus? It really is very dry here. Haven't seen you on much.
Very busy..Way too many storms here. We have sustained major tree damage. Lost two from lightening strikes, and two more may have so much damage they may not survive..It is a bummer, they were nice trees...One Cherry, two Maples and a locust. I have one huge Poplar that was damaged but should pull through...At one time, this property had the largest poplar tree in area. It was killed by lightening 50 years ago. The stump is still there and is about 5 feet in diameter. Musta been a cool lookin tree..I am going to check some models and see if Florida will get some rain.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21227
Quoting aspectre:
275 aspectre "Pure coincidence. NHK World had announced a full day ahead of time that it's various livestream partners would cease continuous webcasting on 3/25 at 24:00JST."
[below referring to a posted photo]
There are horrendous scenes of devastation... and then there are the surreal."

296 jeffs713 " o.O How exactly do you fix that?"

Fix what?

The large boat (about 50'-ish) on top of a 2-story building.
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Quoting Grothar:


Not really, in those days we just moved from Aristotle to Plato and Socrates. No such thing as grades. Just changed rocks. We all liked it when papyrus was invented. I hated chipping away on those stone tablets. Took months to finish a term paper.

LOL. Thanks for clarifying that for me. Appreciate it, oh wizened one.
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Quoting jeffs713:

You were in 7th grade once? ;)


Not really, in those days we just moved from Aristotle to Plato and Socrates. No such thing as grades. Just changed rocks. We all liked it when papyrus was invented. I hated chipping away on those stone tablets. Took months to finish a term paper.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26150
275 aspectre "Pure coincidence. NHK World had announced a full day ahead of time that it's various livestream partners would cease continuous webcasting on 3/25 at 24:00JST."
[below referring to a posted photo]
There are horrendous scenes of devastation... and then there are the surreal."

296 jeffs713 " o.O How exactly do you fix that?"

Fix what?
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Quoting Grothar:


I hope you learned your lesson? LOL Sunrise and Davie and Pembroke Pines were under about 10 feet of water. The gators had come out over the canals. I remember all the cows drowned out that way. It was a sad sight. I was a little older than in 7th grade. LOL

You were in 7th grade once? ;)
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Update time = Fri Mar 25 13:00:03 UTC 2011


MAG UTC DATE-TIME y/m/d h:m:s LAT deg LON deg DEPTH km Region MAP
6.4 2011/03/25 11:36:25 38.763 141.942 39.2 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
Member Since: September 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 20973
Quoting scooster67:
I was in 7th grade then and lived in Sunrise. I swam from my back porch to the club house in country squire. Right thru a lake where we always had Gators. Yes! I was very smart back then. LOL!


I hope you learned your lesson? LOL Sunrise and Davie and Pembroke Pines were under about 10 feet of water. The gators had come out over the canals. I remember all the cows drowned out that way. It was a sad sight. I was a little older than in 7th grade. LOL
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26150
comment 281 how did jason get in Pa. Now that is a must see video Nea. excellent job 5 stars.
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Quoting cat5hurricane:

Jeff, you're in Florida, right?

Nawp. I'm in Texas. (on the edge between a trace of rain and nothing)

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Quoting Grothar:
Anyone on here remember the record rainfall in April 1979. Miami recorded 15 inches in one day, but some places in Broward country received almost 24 inches. The rains were so bad State Road 84 was under 2 feet of water. There was no way to go from Dade County to Broward County. Very Strange event
I was in 7th grade then and lived in Sunrise. I swam from my back porch to the club house in country squire. Right thru a lake where we always had Gators. Yes! I was very smart back then. LOL!
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Quoting aspectre:
Pure coincidence. NHK World had announced a full day ahead of time that it's various livestream partners would cease continuous webcasting on 3/25 at 24:00JST.

There are horrendous scenes of devastation... and then there are the surreal.

o.O

How exactly do you fix that?
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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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