Missouri River flood hits unprecedented flow rates

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:18 PM GMT on June 17, 2011

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The most expensive tornado/severe weather disaster in American history is the great May 21 - 26, 2011 storm that spawned the Joplin, Missouri EF-5 tornado. According to catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide, insured damages from that storm will amount to $4 - $7 billion, the greatest damages ever for a spring severe weather outbreak. However, the damages from the huge, slow-moving low pressure system that spawned the Joplin tornado have not yet been fully realized. The powerful storm pumped huge quantities of warm, moisture-laden air from the Gulf of Mexico northwestwards into Montana, where the moisture condensed into record-breaking heavy rain and snow. In portions of eastern Montana, the storm brought a year's worth of precipitation in a week, swelling the tributaries of the Missouri River to unprecedented heights. Billings, Montana recorded 9.54" of precipitation in May, its single wettest month on record, and not far from its annual average precipitation of 14.5". A great 100-year flood has arrived along the Missouri River and its tributaries from Montana to Nebraska. Record spring rains, combined with snow melt from record or near-record winter and spring snows, brought the Missouri River at Williston, North Dakota to 30' today (June 17), two feet above the record crest set in 1912. Tributaries to the Missouri, such as the North Platte River in Nebraska, are also flooding at all-time record heights. With warm summer temperatures and 2 - 5" of rainfall expected over much of the area during the coming week, snow melt and rain runoff will swell area rivers even further, creating an even more dangerous flood.

Flooding along the Missouri River has already broken two levees and closed two portions of I-29, a key trucking route that extends from Kansas City through Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota to the Canadian border. A 20-mile stretch between Council Bluffs and the Missouri Valley area is closed, as well as a 22-mile section in southwest Iowa and northwest Missouri, causing significant disruptions to the trucking industry.


Figure 1. Satellite image taken at 5:45pm CDT May 22, 2011, when the Joplin, Missouri tornado was occurring. The counter-clockwise flow of air around the spiraling low pressure system that caused the Joplin tornado drew large quantities of Gulf of Mexico air into Montana, creating record-breaking rains. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.



Figure 2. Levee breach along the Missouri River levee L-575 near Hamburg, Iowa, on June 14, 2011. The town of Hamburg is being protected by a new temporary levee. So far, only farmland has flooded. Image credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Army Corps cranks up water releases on Missouri River dams to double the previous record
Six flood control dams lie on the Missouri River between eastern Montana and Sioux City, Iowa; these dams were built between 1940 and 1964. As water from this spring's record precipitation have flowed into the Missouri River basin, the reservoirs behind these dams have risen to record levels. On May 31, the Army Corps of Engineers was forced to open the the spillway gates on the massive Garrison Dam, 50 miles northwest of Bismark, North Dakota. It was the first time since the dam was built in 1955 that the spillway gates were opened. (Remarkably, during 2007 and early 2008, Lake Sakakawea water levels behind Garrison Dam were the lowest since the dam was built--46 feet below the current level--thanks to a decade-long drought.) On June 3, as the record flood progressed downstream, the spillway gates on the Big Bend Dam opened for the first time since that dam was completed in 1964. This week, the Army Corps of Engineers increased water flowing through all six dams to more than double the previous highs set during the floods of 1975 and 1997. The flow rates are now a massive 150,000 cubic feet per second, 1.5 times greater than the typical flow of Niagara Falls. These extreme flow rates will need to be maintained into at least mid-August, and are expected to severely strain levees on the Missouri River as it flows through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas. According to a press conference put on by NWS and the Army Corps last week, the Missouri River flood control system is based on an 1881 estimate of the maximum amount of water an extreme flood season could generate--40 million acre-feet of water during the spring and summer flood season. However, this year's flood is expected to pump 42 - 43 million acre feet of water into the system, stressing it beyond its designed limits. In May alone, the Missouri River basin just upstream from Sioux City, Iowa, received 10.2 million acre feet of water, more than 25% above the previous May record of 7.2 million acre feet set in 1995. Additional levee failures along the Missouri are likely this summer, particularly if widespread heavy summer rains occur.


Figure 3. The Oahe Reservoir Stilling Basin north of Pierre, S.D., on June 5, 2011. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased the water releases from the Oahe Dam into the stilling basin to a record 147,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water release on June 8. The previous record was 59,000 cfs in 1997. Image credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/ Carlos J. Lazo

Four-day period of critical fire conditions expected in the Southwest
Powerful southwest winds of 20 - 30 mph, gusting to 40 mph will continue through Saturday in Eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, making progress containing the region's severe fires difficult. Even worse conditions are begin predicted for Sunday, when NOAA's Storm Prediction Center forecasts forecasts that wind gusts up to 50 mph will occur. With hot conditions and humidity values below 10%, these are likely to be among the worst fire conditions the region has seen this year.

While the exceptional drought gripping Arizona is largely to blame for terrible fire conditions this year, unusually windy and dry weather has also been a significant factor. These windy and dry conditions have been caused, in part, by a stronger-than-average jet stream over the region. According to the National Weather Service in Phoenix, the period April-May 2011 was the 11th windiest and had the 6th lowest average relative humidity value on record in Phoenix. Combined, it was the 3rd windiest-driest April-May on record.

Our weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, has an interesting post on The Worst Wild Fires in World History. Arizona's Wallow Fire, at 750 square miles, has a long way to go before matching the largest fire in U.S. history, the great Peshtigo Fire of 1871. That fire burned 5,938 square miles of Wisconsin and Michigan.

Tallahassee hits 105°, their hottest day on record
On Wednesday June 15 at 307 PM EDT, the Tallahassee Regional Airport in Florida recorded a high temperature of 105 degrees. This temperature breaks the previous all time high temperature record for Tallahassee of 104 degrees, set most recently on June 20th 1933. The period of record for Tallahassee dates back to 1892.

The Atlantic is quiet
The Atlantic is quiet, with no tropical cyclones predicted over the next seven days by the reliable computer models. However, the GFS model predicts that moisture will begin increasing early next week in the western Gulf of Mexico, and a tropical disturbance could form next week in the Gulf, bringing much-needed rains to the coast of Texas. Droughts of the magnitude of the current Texas drought are hard to break, though, so I'd like to see more support from the models before believing in this forecast.

Have a great weekend everyone! I'll be back Monday with a new post.

Jeff Masters

ABANDONED For Wetland Project in Flood (BEME)
Another old farmstead,within the wetlands 'project'..near Highway 2 [to Nebraska City,Nebraska]..Water's getting higher. [photo taken Wednesday afternoon]
ABANDONED For Wetland Project in Flood
Won't be Open Much Longer (Nikongranny)
Highway 2 east of Nebraska City will be closing very soon.
Won't be Open Much Longer
Trying to Keep Ahead (Nikongranny)
of the approaching water. Crews working frantically building this earth berm to keep the advancing Missouri River out of Hamburg.
Trying to Keep Ahead

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Quoting StAugustineFL:


Had some appreciable rain in NE FL. .46 inches thus far. Looks like more is soon on the way. Took this pic from indoors not long ago. The lightning was too close to go outside.

That is great!
Member Since: July 5, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1348
Quoting Grothar:


Interesting. I knew a few Torgen's in Germany, but never met one in Scandinavia. Sounds very Nordic. Win many games?


Yeah, I had no idea this name I "invented" was real! I've had folks ask if I were Swedish before.
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Quoting StAugustineFL:


Had some appreciable rain in NE FL. .46 inches thus far. Looks like more is soon on the way. Took this pic from indoors not long ago. The lightning was too close to go outside.



That's what someone was calling "rain porn!" Lucky you, hope I see some this afternoon.

As far as failing crops, don't forget Russia is seeing a possible second year that they lose 1/3 or more of their crops.
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Quoting Torgen:


Used it here from force of habit, I guess. I "invented" this name to sound Scandinavian in the Everquest beta 15 or so years ago. So many people "know" me by this name now, that it would be hard to ditch.


Interesting. I knew a few Torgen's in Germany, but never met one in Scandinavia. Sounds very Nordic. Win many games?
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147. TampaTom 7:53 PM GMT on June 17, 2011
Quoting NRAamy:
All this is to say: please be prepared and help your community be prepared.

My "community" thinks I'm a nutjob for "prepping".... if I can't convince my friends and neighbors to prepare, what makes you think I'm gonna waste my time and energy on the masses?

forget it.... waste of time...



That's why we professional prep people love you, Amy.


Thanks, Funky Monkey, but I bet I annoy more people than I endear to me....

;)

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Quoting Torgen:


I don't think this is that kind of message board! :)

But seriously, I'm watching the local radar and feeling like I'm watching spring training or something. I had a storm cell headed straight for me, and another formed to the east and rammed it "off course." :P


Had some appreciable rain in NE FL. .46 inches thus far. Looks like more is soon on the way. Took this pic from indoors not long ago. The lightning was too close to go outside.

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Quoting ColoradoBob1:
June 15 -...Canada's acreage planted with all varieties of wheat may
be the second-smallest since 1971 as "unrelenting rains across large
areas of Western Canada" prompt farmers to leave millions of acres of
land unplanted, the board said on its website yesterday.
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-15/wheat-ma y-climb-as-curbed-acreage-in-canada-adds-to-global -supply-concern.html


Well, that's certainly not good news. Especially since, according to this article, "...Canada is the world’s second largest exporter of wheat...about 21% of the world market for wheat exports."

Also, "...China and Japan are by far Canada’s principal customers for wheat and flour."

So, a poor wheat crop in Canada will mean higher prices and/or supply issues for Japan. Could Japan's year get any worse? Let's hope not...
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I have a feeling that 10 chances to do so will not result in any improvement, admin. We've seen enough, right?
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Afternoon all. I'm hoping to get lucky here...



I don't think this is that kind of message board! :)

But seriously, I'm watching the local radar and feeling like I'm watching spring training or something. I had a storm cell headed straight for me, and another formed to the east and rammed it "off course." :P
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Ding Ding! Round one has commenced.
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Quoting TampaTom:
I guess all the kids are out of school and bored with their summer vacations already...


The new release of "Civilization" must have been delayed again.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
June 15 -...Canada's acreage planted with all varieties of wheat may
be the second-smallest since 1971 as "unrelenting rains across large
areas of Western Canada" prompt farmers to leave millions of acres of
land unplanted, the board said on its website yesterday.
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-15/wheat-ma y-climb-as-curbed-acreage-in-canada-adds-to-global -supply-concern.html
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Afternoon all. I'm hoping to get lucky here...

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Quoting aspectre:
The Missouri drains into the Mississippi. Now what do you think would have happened if the ArmyCorps of Engineers had opened Missouri floodgates while the Mississippi was already flowing at record heights?


Very good point. There certainly is a method to the madness... sometimes the method *is* madness (or sure seems that way from the outside), but I generally think the Army Corps tries to do what is best - they have a lot of conflicting demands placed upon them.
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172. beell
)
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Quoting PcolaDan:


No wonder I can see Mexico from my back porch. ;>)


Sarah? ;-)
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Quoting PurpleDrank:
Changing Tides: Research Center Under Fire for 'Adjusted' Sea-Level Data


Not to say this report is correct or incorrect but, would it not be more accurate to measure sea level rise in the Pacific isles that are barely above sea level and were never subject to subsidence due to any glacial weight being placed on them? What do these studies show? I understand that having a larger basin to contain the water would have some impact but, would it be impacted as much as a land mass that is rising due to loss of its glaciers? Just a thought.
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adios.
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The Missouri drains into the Mississippi.
Now what do you think would have happened if the ArmyCorps of Engineers had opened Missouri floodgates while the Mississippi was already flowing at record heights?
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Quoting newbrasscan:
Many in the midwest think the Corps of Engineers' incompetence has caused this disaster and the Corps did not release water earlier because of concerns about nesting birds and fish. All those bird nests and fish ae well on their way to St. Louis and beyond!
If I recall correctly (not fully certain) during the bush era an environmental protection law required the corp to reduce water releases on those reservoirs up north to protect wildlife thats endangered. Im not defending the corps' slow responses, but I have to wonder if that is why they delayed releasing (or at least was part of the decisions behind the timing)
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Quoting TampaTom:
A real lack of clouds over the Gulf today... wow



No wonder I can see Mexico from my back porch. ;>)
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
A real lack of clouds over the Gulf today... wow

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Quoting tkeith:
I felt like the Corps was draggin their feet a bit in opening the Morganza spillway during the recent Mississippi River flooding. I was wrong. I believe there is a method to the madness...

Like Mr Mixon said, I'm not usually a big Corps fan either, since Katrina.


I think a lot of people think this way. Just like the Coast Guard after the BP fiasco. But, the CoE dealings with New Orleans are more of a long term problem by previous people in charge, while the flooding and subsequent opening of spillways was based on events as they take place, by a whole different group of personnel.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting newbrasscan:
Many in the midwest think the Corps of Engineers' incompetence has caused this disaster and the Corps did not release water earlier because of concerns about nesting birds and fish. All those bird nests and fish ae well on their way to St. Louis and beyond!
I felt like the Corps was draggin their feet a bit in opening the Morganza spillway during the recent Mississippi River flooding. I was wrong. I believe there is a method to the madness...

Like Mr Mixon said, I'm not usually a big Corps fan either, since Katrina.
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155. wpb
another day of brutal heat and no rain in sfla. lake levels are at levels not seen in 19 years at my residence
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Quoting Torgen:
Added another hawk photo since he seems to have a couple of fans (it's not as good as the first one) and one of a flock of ibises that came marching past the window one day.


Cool pics. Must make for a tough day at the office. ;)

Amy, thinking an addition to the zoo? lol
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting newbrasscan:
Many in the midwest think the Corps of Engineers' incompetence has caused this disaster and the Corps did not release water earlier because of concerns about nesting birds and fish. All those bird nests and fish ae well on their way to St. Louis and beyond!


I'm not normally in the business of defending the Corps, but I am pretty sure they did not cause the record-breaking snows and rains which lead to this flooding...
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Many in the midwest think the Corps of Engineers' incompetence has caused this disaster and the Corps did not release water earlier because of concerns about nesting birds and fish. All those bird nests and fish ae well on their way to St. Louis and beyond!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Added another hawk photo since he seems to have a couple of fans (it's not as good as the first one) and one of a flock of ibises that came marching past the window one day.
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Changing Tides: Research Center Under Fire for 'Adjusted' Sea-Level Data

University of Colorado research group accused of doctoring sea level data to exaggerate global warming claims


Is climate change raising sea levels, as Al Gore has argued -- or are climate scientists doctoring the data?

The University of Colorado’s Sea Level Research Group decided in May to add 0.3 millimeters -- or about the thickness of a fingernail -- every year to its actual measurements of sea levels, sparking criticism from experts who called it an attempt to exaggerate the effects of global warming.

"Gatekeepers of our sea level data are manufacturing a fictitious sea level rise that is not occurring," said James M. Taylor, a lawyer who focuses on environmental issues for the Heartland Institute.

Steve Nerem, the director of the widely relied-upon research center, told FoxNews.com that his group added the 0.3 millimeters per year to the actual sea level measurements because land masses, still rebounding from the ice age, are rising and increasing the amount of water that oceans can hold.

"We have to account for the fact that the ocean basins are actually getting slightly bigger... water volume is expanding," he said, a phenomenon they call glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA).

Taylor calls it tomfoolery.

"There really is no reason to do this other than to advance a political agenda," he said.

Climate scientist John Christy, a professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, said that the amount of water in the ocean and sea level were two different things.

"To me… sea level rise is what's measured against the actual coast," he told FoxNews.com. "That's what tells us the impact of rising oceans."

Taylor agreed.

"Many global warming alarmists say that vast stretches of coastline are going to be swallowed up by the sea. Well, that means we should be talking about sea level, not about global water volume."

In e-mails with FoxNews.com, Nerem indicated that he considered "sea level rise" to be the same thing as the amount of water in the ocean.

"If we correct our data to remove [the effect of rising land], it actually does cause the rate of sea level (a.k.a. ocean water volume change) rise to be bigger," Nerem wrote. The adjustment is trivial, and not worth public attention, he added.

"For the layperson, this correction is a non-issue and certainly not newsworthy… [The] effect is tiny -- only 1 inch over 100 years, whereas we expect sea level to rise 2-4 feet."

But Taylor said that the correction seemed bigger when compared with actual sea level increases.

"We’ve seen only 7 inches of sea level rise in the past century and it hasn’t sped up this century. Compared to that, this would add nearly 20 percent to the sea level rise. That's not insignificant," he told FoxNews.com.

Nerem said that the research center is considering compromising on the adjustment.

"We are considering putting both data sets on our website -- a GIA-corrected dataset, as well as one without the GIA correction," he said.

Christy said that would be a welcome change.

"I would encourage CU to put the sea level rate [with] no adjustment at the top of the website," he said.

Taylor’s takeaway: Be wary of sea level rise estimates.

"When Al Gore talks about Manhattan flooding this century, and 20 feet of sea level rise, that’s simply not going to happen. If it were going to happen, he wouldn’t have bought his multi-million dollar mansion along the coast in California."


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/06/17/research -center-under-fire-for-adjusted-sea-level-data/#ix zz1PZ5aNv9U

http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/06/17/researc h-center-under-fire-for-adjusted-sea-level-data/
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Quoting NRAamy:
All this is to say: please be prepared and help your community be prepared.

My "community" thinks I'm a nutjob for "prepping".... if I can't convince my friends and neighbors to prepare, what makes you think I'm gonna waste my time and energy on the masses?

forget it.... waste of time...


That's why we professional prep people love you, Amy.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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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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