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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746. flsky
Well, I'm off to bed everyone. Got a volunteer gig tomorrow at 9:30am. Take a deep breath and try to get a good night's sleep all.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Yeah! Let's run government like business and then nobody gets benefits and just "the little people" (i.e., you and me) pay taxes!
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11346
Hey, what percentage of your income are you paying in taxes this year?!
(p.s. GE paid nothing last year....Slogging through your taxes right now? Maybe you could hire someone from General Electric (GE) to help.

The company has beaten Uncle Sam. It paid no U.S. taxes for 2010, The New York Times reported. In fact, it received a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

It's not that GE can claim poverty. The company rang up $14.2 billion in profits last year, including $5.1 billion from U.S. operations.

How did GE do it? Through what the Times describes as "innovative accounting" and fierce lobbying, GE has been cutting its tax bill for years. In a stroke of genius, it hired a former Treasury official to lead its tax department and filled its team with former IRS employees and Congressional tax specialists.

The top corporate tax rate is supposed to be 35% -- one of the highest in the world. But few companies actually pay that rate, since there are myriad loopholes and other ways to get breaks. Now, the Times reports, only 6.6% of Uncle Sam's tax revenue comes from corporations (down from 30% in the 1950s).

Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11346
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
M.A.D.



dont be mad get happy
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115248
Quoting jasoniscoolman2011x:

look at this hurricane!!! maybe a eye soon



they are not called hurricanes overe there
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115248
Quoting DARPAsockpuppet:


by the power of Greyskull?
hello puppet
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remember you are only free as long as you do exactly as you are told
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all you see here is but an illusion this is not how it was meant to be
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Quoting jasoniscoolman2011x:

look at this hurricane!!! maybe a eye soon


It's likely already at its peak.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
they will do whatever has to be done to preserve the union and the republic for which it stands and to maintain law and order at what ever means required to maintain a civil populace

and ...

deleted
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M.A.D.
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729. flsky
Anyway, back to weather. Can anyone give me a clearer idea of what "moisture" ECF will be receiving in the near future. Our local mets are only forecasting 30% to 40% probabilities in the next few days, which usually means we won't see too much.
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Quoting twincomanche:

Our armed forces will never take up arms against the citizens no matter what someone orders them to do. They of all people understand that this is a government of the people.

I understand that.
I was not inferring that your Government would do that.
I was speaking very generally, about powerful people.
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Quoting twincomanche:

Our armed forces will never take up arms against the citizens no matter what someone orders them to do. They of all people understand that this is a government of the people.
they will do whatever has to be done to preserve the union and the republic for which it stands and to maintain law and order at what ever means required to maintain a civil populace
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Quoting flsky:
Well, I guess I have to disagree with this. Please consider all of the striving individuals who are trying their best to make a difference. So many don't just wait to cast a vote every four years or so.


Not dissin' the efforts and Hard Work being put in by many thousands of people. Outside of the mainstream of the Politics and within.

I should have made it more clear, that unfortunately, not enough attention is given to those people, and the Powers that be get all the press.
Also, I am talking Internationally...
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724. flsky
Well, I guess I have to disagree with this. Please consider all of the striving individuals who are trying their best to make a difference. So many don't just wait to cast a vote every four years or so.

Quoting pottery:



True. In many cases anyway.
Unfortunately "us the folks" have abdicated our responsibilities long ago, and make our voice heard at election time only.

Or we let things get so out-of-hand that we end up having to create armed revolution out of sheer frustration.
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:


Too old to fight, I just analyze and try to fix it...sometimes it works......lol



Perfect! Now we see eye to eye, Eyes. ( lets chest collapse back into stomach ) There, that feels better.

Was that too many eyes? er, eye?
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Quoting Ossqss:


I am fine Pott, and "no" on the question.


We have much in process, and not many answers. Just pointing out, we are entering uncharted territory on many global fronts bro....




I leave you with the this. I am confident we will do what is right and more importantly, correct :)





here's a vid for ya

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720. flsky
Perhaps we could look at this in the terms of ratios. Japan is a very advanced country, but it is quite small in the general scheme of things.

If the U.S. was subjected to this disaster on scale equal to our size, would we be doing any better? Personally, I don't think so.

Quoting pottery:

Absolutely!
I think that the World is amazed, that it's the JAPANESE who cannot seem to get to grips with it somehow....
Makes us all feel a little less secure (as if that were possible).

And the confusion in MidEast is not helping matters.
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Quoting twincomanche:
Or a unarmed one.

Good point.
But keep an eye on the Armed Ones.
Arms, and the training that goes with it, leaves very little room for Tolerance.
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Quoting Ossqss:


I am fine Pott, and "no" on the question.


We have much in process, and not many answers. Just pointing out, we are entering uncharted territory on many global fronts bro....




I leave you with the this. I am confident we will do what is right and more importantly, correct :)






Historic Times, my Friend.
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:


would that be "itchin fer a fight" ?


Somebody's a hankerin' for something.
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Quoting twincomanche:


It certainly doesn't make anyone feel any better, however there is way more truth than fiction to that statement. Right now it's up to us the folks because there ain't much leadership in sight.



True. In many cases anyway.
Unfortunately "us the folks" have abdicated our responsibilities long ago, and make our voice heard at election time only.

Or we let things get so out-of-hand that we end up having to create armed revolution out of sheer frustration.
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:



itchin', pickin'. You still end up in the same place. ...... Hey! Wait just a minute, there! Are you arguing with me?


Too old to fight, I just analyze and try to fix it...sometimes it works......lol
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492
Quoting EYEStoSEA:


would that be "itchin fer a fight" ?



itchin', pickin'. You still end up in the same place. ...... Hey! Wait just a minute, there! Are you arguing with me?
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:



Hey, Grothar. I think Taz is pickin' for an argument.


Nah, not Taz. Never happen. LOL
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Quoting pottery:

This is supposed to make us feel better?

how you doing, Oss??


I am fine Pott, and "no" on the question.


We have much in process, and not many answers. Just pointing out, we are entering uncharted territory on many global fronts bro....




I leave you with the this. I am confident we will do what is right and more importantly, correct :)





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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:



Hey, Grothar. I think Taz is pickin' for an argument.


would that be "itchin fer a fight" ?
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492
Quoting Tazmanian:
am # 1



Hey, Grothar. I think Taz is pickin' for an argument.
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:) ~~~~~~ :}
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492
Quoting washingtonian115:
No one really argues with me.......I guess it's a thing called respect?.Is it ringing in your ears Grothar?.


Like a bell.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
am # 1


You bet u are !! How much snow ya get on the B-DAY ?
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492
am # 1
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115248
Quoting iceagecoming:


Skip Harper, Keeper for PM of Canada in May.
Where the rubber meets the road.


I would move to Canada to cast that vote! .... I may as well. He keeps pointing those big assk fans towards the south during the winter months any way. I may have to move up there to just stay warm during the winter!
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


Sorry, Grothar. I did not read far enough ahead. I lost a brother in '84 and both of my parents in '92. Many friends spread throughout the years. I learned to remember the past, live for today and hope for tomorrow. Sometimes, this actually helps.


Thanks, Rookie. I guess we keep on, keeping on. It just gives me a little twist sometimes that people who could be really friends on here just go one step over the line. I am just as guilty myself of that, I guess.
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Quoting Ossqss:


The lack of capable, responsible, effective, and just flat out good leadership is quite evident to all across the globe :(

It is not good.... period...... just continue to watch, eventually all will see it ........


This is supposed to make us feel better?

how you doing, Oss??
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Quoting pottery:

Absolutely!
I think that the World is amazed, that it's the JAPANESE who cannot seem to get to grips with it somehow....
Makes us all feel a little less secure (as if that were possible).

And the confusion in MidEast is not helping matters.


The lack of capable, responsible, effective, and just flat out good leadership is quite evident to all across the globe :(

It is not good.... period...... just continue to watch, eventually all will see it ........

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Quoting twincomanche:
We may just be being too modern day looking for the instant fix. I still bet they win out at the end.


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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


No argument there. I could not agree more.


Skip Harper, Keeper for PM of Canada in May.
Where the rubber meets the road.
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Quoting Grothar:


I know it amazes me.

I do think that we underestimate the magnitude of the Disaster that caused the situation though.
The fact that the thing has not blown-up completely, is quite remarkable considering the events there.
It's easy for us to demand action, and that the guys on site wear the right shoes, but it must be awful there....
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Quoting Grothar:


Why is it no one ever argues with me? I feel left out.
No one really argues with me.......I guess it's a thing called respect?.Is it ringing in your ears Grothar?.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17071

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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.