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: 846 - 796

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

Quoting Tazmanian:



welcome
Firefox 4.0 installed.....Bring on thoze nasty canes...:)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19606
Quoting RTLSNK:


Macon, Georgia.

Looks like "O7" coming NE from Columbus will be the first one to get to Macon.


Yep.. Will be an early end to the cherry blossom festival here in Macon.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RTLSNK:


Macon, Georgia.

Looks like "O7" coming NE from Columbus will be the first one to get to Macon.
Yer in the thick of it aintcha....Stay safe..We have had our butts kicked in 4 times in the past 2 weeks or so..Hopefully you will fair better.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19606
Quoting hydrus:
Thank you. I will do that..Check out the ECMWF. It has air pressure dropping over the entire CONUS. And a massive storm system developing about a week out...Link



welcome
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hydrus:
RTLSNK--Where are you located?


Macon, Georgia.

Looks like "O7" coming NE from Columbus will be the first one to get to Macon.
Member Since: September 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 19571
Quoting RTLSNK:
None of these were on the radar this morning,
except the one that went through Ike's area.
Plenty of juice for the rough stuff...MLCAPES AOA 2000 J/KG FROM LWR MS VLY TO
CENTRAL AL THIS AFTERNOON.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19606
None of these were on the radar this morning,
except the one that went through Ike's area.
Member Since: September 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 19571
RTLSNK--Where are you located?
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19606
Quoting Tazmanian:



oh if you have firefox 3.6 this go to help or tools and hit update and that sould get you too firefox 4
Thank you. I will do that..Check out the ECMWF. It has air pressure dropping over the entire CONUS. And a massive storm system developing about a week out...Link
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19606
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
This is not what I wanted to see today. :(

Tornado Watch
Statement as of 1:15 PM EDT on March 26, 2011


The NWS Storm Prediction Center has issued a
Tornado Watch for portions of

large part of Alabama
a large part of western Georgia

Effective this Saturday afternoon and evening from 115 PM until
900 PM EDT.

Tornadoes... hail to 3 inches in diameter... thunderstorm wind
gusts to 70 mph... and dangerous lightning are possible in these
areas.

The Tornado Watch area is approximately along and 85 statute
miles north and south of a line from 65 miles northeast of
Moultrie Georgia to 40 miles west of Tuscaloosa Alabama. For a
complete depiction of the watch see the associated watch outline
update (wous64 kwns wou2).

Remember... a Tornado Watch means conditions are favorable for
tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch
area. Persons in these areas should be on the lookout for
threatening weather conditions and listen for later statements
and possible warnings.

Discussion... thunderstorms will increase in number and intensity
across the watch area as air mass has become mdtly unstable in a
favorable shear environment for supercell development. Severe
thunderstorms are likely including tornadic supercells thru the
afternoon as storms develop along and S of E/W frontal zone thru nrn
al into central GA. There is the possibility of a strong tornado
by later this afternoon.

Aviation... tornadoes and a few severe thunderstorms with hail
surface and aloft to 3 inches. Extreme turbulence and surface
wind gusts to 60 knots. A few cumulonimbi with maximum tops to
500. Mean storm motion vector 24030.


... Hales


Member Since: September 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 19571
Quoting hydrus:
I tried to download it yesterday, and it was saying that its a binary file, do I want to save it. I said yes, but it would not save..



oh if you have firefox 3.6 this go to help or tools and hit update and that sould get you too firefox 4
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting washingtonian115:
Ahrrgg.I just hope we have a warm spring.I hate cold springs.
I think you will hate this spring. At least for 3 or 4 weeks anyway...
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19606
Quoting Tazmanian:
have any of you tryed out firefox 4 yet?
I tried to download it yesterday, and it was saying that its a binary file, do I want to save it. I said yes, but it would not save..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19606
N CA is heading in too are dry seasone why FL starts there wet seasone
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hydrus:
Snow for you maybe.....Link
Ahrrgg.I just hope we have a warm spring.I hate cold springs.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Usually when Florida has dry winters that's not a good thing at all.Becuase when that happens they recive all their rain the hard way...through tropical cyclones of course.now I've did some research and looking back at history Floridan is in a bad position this season.Anyone remember 2007?.Even though the storms that did effect the state wern't significant they still came to Florida.It was Berry T.D 10,and the precursor to Erin.Also Andrea was trying to make her way down their as well but failed miserably.2008 was another dry year.I don't have to bring up Fay do I?.....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
have any of you tryed out firefox 4 yet?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting washingtonian115:
A new hurricane forecast is coming out in April.I think It'll be the same even though La nina is weakning.But the numbers don't matter.Becuase I think that this season the U.S will see more threats than in 2010.As mentioned before I think the ENSO effects where the A/B high sets up during the specific season.
Snow for you maybe.....Link
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19606
A new hurricane forecast is coming out in April.I think It'll be the same even though La nina is weakning.But the numbers don't matter.Becuase I think that this season the U.S will see more threats than in 2010.As mentioned before I think the ENSO effects where the A/B high sets up during the specific season.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
825. beell
.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Thank you, thank you, and thank you! You are getting good at these images! Looks like I may not have to fill up the pool after all.
If this pans out, more severe weather for us....Link
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19606
Quoting Grothar:


Hope it is for real. Would definitely help our deficit, (rain, that is)
Another view of monster...Link
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19606
Quoting hydrus:
NGP Accum Precip...Link


Thank you, thank you, and thank you! You are getting good at these images! Looks like I may not have to fill up the pool after all.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 64 Comments: 23749
Quoting Grothar:


Hope it is for real. Would definitely help our deficit, (rain, that is)
NGP Accum Precip...Link
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19606
Quoting Grothar:


Hope it is for real. Would definitely help our deficit, (rain, that is)
GFS Accum Precip...Link
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19606
Quoting Grothar:


Hope it is for real. Would definitely help our deficit, (rain, that is)
CMC Accum. Precip..Link
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19606
818. IKE

Quoting InconceivableF6:

Ike...I apologize. I did mistake you for another person.
10/4.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
JB says no El Nino comming in his discussion at the new site where he works now.

Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
816. beell
click for discussion
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hydrus:
Look at this monster at the end of the GEM run....Link


Hope it is for real. Would definitely help our deficit, (rain, that is)
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 64 Comments: 23749
oh heck no, Nea! NEVER AGAIN will I drink that stuff- and it didn't even work on the cough

just send me rain, get this pollen outta here, I'm dying. Or still hallucinating, can't tell the difference.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25514
Quoting aquak9:
re- 809

so the tsunami was planning this for two years? no way

Ha! Still sipping on your happy Delsym, I see. ;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13306
re- 809

so the tsunami was planning this for two years? no way
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25514
aussie- jedkins isn't bob...but inconcievable might be.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25514
Researcher warned 2 yrs ago of massive tsunami striking nuke plant

A researcher said Saturday he had warned two years ago about the possible risk of a massive tsunami hitting a nuclear power plant in Japan, but Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant crippled by the March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami, had brushed off the warning.

According to the researcher, Yukinobu Okamura, and the records of a government council where he made the warning, TEPCO asserted that there was flexibility in the quake resistance design of its plants and expressed reluctance to raise the assumption of possible quake damage citing a lack of sufficient information.

''There should be ample flexibility in the safety of a nuclear power plant,'' said Okamura, head of the Active Fault and Earthquake Research Center at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. ''It is odd to have an attitude of not taking into consideration indeterminate aspects.''

Okamura had warned in 2009 of massive tsunami based on his study since around 2004 of the traces of a major tsunami believed to have swept away about a thousand people in the year 869 after a magnitude 8.3 quake off northeastern Japan.

He had found in his research that tsunami from the ancient quake had hit a wide range of the coastal regions of northeastern Japan, at least as far north as Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture and as far south as the town of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture -- close to the Fukushima Daiichi plant -- penetrating as much as 3 to 4 kilometers inland.

As a result of the quake and tsunami earlier this month, Japan has been facing its worst nuclear crisis as electricity and cooling functions failed at the power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, releasing radioactive materials.

Article...

Yeah, why would anyone listen to the words of some alarmist? There have been giant tsunami before that would cause a catastrophic failure of a nuke plant if they happened now? Never! Oh, the blow-out preventer has a design flaw that would render it useless in the event it was ever actually needed? Ain't never gonna happen! What's that you say? There are terrorists in Arizona and Florida training to fly jumbo jets into skyscrapers? I don't believe it! Oh, the planet's warming more rapidly than it ever has in the past? C'mon, that's just crazy talk!

And so it goes, and so it goes, same as it ever was. The only thing more insane than shouting that the sky is falling when it's not is failing to acknowledge the times it really is.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13306
Quoting pottery:

LOLOL....
never thought of it like that.

just in from the first 'rotation'.
Man. This is HOT work......

glug glug glug....
What ya need is some dat expensive South American wine and plenty of water....
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19606
807. IKE
Quoting InconceivableF6:
Right Ike,, been hearing that from you all week. Floridians will believe it when they see it.
I just picked up... .03 inches in a light shower.

You must have me mistaken for someone else. i haven't said a whole lot on here in the last few weeks.

Florida panhandle.....


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hydrus:
So you are the Anti-Christ.......good morning Pott..:)

LOLOL....
never thought of it like that.

just in from the first 'rotation'.
Man. This is HOT work......

glug glug glug....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting DARPAsockpuppet:

Nice vortex ring.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Jedkins01:
HPC shows some heavy totals around here. Considering it is Florida, widespread QPF of 3.5 inches usually means locally you could see 7 to 10, because high moisture as always will warrant very high rainfall rates.

That being said though, we will see if the HPC keeps that forecast or not, it could change. I hope it verifies, but don't get your hopes up, its late March and early April, so many times the bite doesn't live up to the bark. As a kid too many times I got hyped seeing stuff like this only to be disappointed a couple days later. That being said, I hope significant rainfall is on its way to Central Florida, but do not get your hopes up is my call, wait and see how things play out.

It does look like the best chance of significant rain since about a month though.

Bob, why don't you just use your normal weather i.d
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
803. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Fiji Meteorological Services
Tropical Disturbance Advisory #16
SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE BUNE (13F)
0:00 AM FST March 27 2011
==========================================

At 12:00 PM UTC, Severe Tropical Cyclone Bune, Category Three (973 hPa) located at 23.2S 179.4E is reported as moving west southwest at 4 knots. 10 minute sustained winds near the center is 65 knots. Position fair based on hourly GMS enhanced infrared radar imagery.

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

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

Gale Force Winds
================
150 NM from the center

Organization has improved in the past 18 hours. Convective tops cooling in the past 3 hours. System remains under a strong diffluent region in a low shear environment. Outflow appears to be good in most quadrant, particularly in the southeast. Sea surface temperature is around 28-29C. BUNE remains slow moving with no significant steering evident apart from a weak upper ridge situated to the east of the system.

Dvorak assessment based on an eye pattern with OW eye and DG surround, giving DT=4.5 MT=PT.

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

Global models are maintaining the strength of the system while adopting a southwesterly track during the next 12-24 hours. TC BUNE is expected to undergo extratropical transition during Monday or Tuesday as the system begins to be influenced by an upper trough across the Tasman Sea this weekend. THe system may re-intensify for a period as this transition occurs and therefore storm force winds could still be possible as TC BUNE tracks near the Kermadec Islands.

Forecast and Intensity
=======================
12 HRS: 24.2S 179.0E - 65 knots (CAT 3)
24 HRS: 25.5S 179.3E - 60 knots (CAT 2)
48 HRS: 29.0S 177.8W - 50 knots (CAT 2)

The next Tropical Disturbance Advisory from Fiji Meteorological Services will be issued at 20:00 PM UTC.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 48 Comments: 43702
802. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)


Numerical Weather Prediction is developing 93B near Andaman Island.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 48 Comments: 43702
Quoting InconceivableF6:

r u a weatherman?


I am a student working on becoming one, I am working on a degree towards Florida State for meteorology. I am currently in my Sophomore year.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting pottery:
Good Morning all.
I am doing a series of Raku firings today.
This involves the consumption of 300 lbs of compressed LPG, and the creation of a vast cloud of smoke from burning sawdust.

My carbon footprint will take years to stabilize, after today.
Appologies in advance.

coff coff wheeze wheeze
So you are the Anti-Christ.......good morning Pott..:)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19606
HPC shows some heavy totals around here. Considering it is Florida, widespread QPF of 3.5 inches usually means locally you could see 7 to 10, because high moisture as always will warrant very high rainfall rates.

That being said though, we will see if the HPC keeps that forecast or not, it could change. I hope it verifies, but don't get your hopes up, its late March and early April, so many times the bite doesn't live up to the bark. As a kid too many times I got hyped seeing stuff like this only to be disappointed a couple days later. That being said, I hope significant rainfall is on its way to Central Florida, but do not get your hopes up is my call, wait and see how things play out.

It does look like the best chance of significant rain since about a month though.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 846 - 796

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.