Spring flooding hits Midwest; Southeast drought eases

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:04 PM GMT on March 20, 2008

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This year's annual spring flooding season is upon us, and it's been a worse flood year than usual across much of the Midwestern U.S. At least 13 people have been killed due to the flooding this week, with another three persons missing. A slow moving storm system brought rains in excess of ten inches to the region (Figure 1). These rains, combined with melting from unusually heavy snows this winter, have led to the floods.


Figure 1. Heavy rains exceeding 10 inches have fallen in some portions of the Midwest over the past week. Image credit: NOAA.

According to NOAA, 224 cities are experiencing flooding today, with major flooding reported in 13 cities in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Illinois. As snow continues to melt and runoff from the recent rains continues to increase the flooding, an additional 13 cities are expected to observe major flooding in the next 48 hours. Fortunately, no heavy rain is expected in the next three days, so a long duration flooding event is not likely.


Figure 2. The NOAA flood outlook calls for significant river flooding across much of the Midwest through Monday. Image credit: NOAA.

Flooding outlook for this Spring
According to NOAA, Above-normal flood potential is expected this Spring in much of the Mississippi River basin, the Ohio River basin, the lower Missouri River basin, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, most of New York, all of New England, and portions of the West, including Colorado and Idaho. Snow depths up to a foot above usual in upstate New York and much of New England could cause flooding in the Connecticut River Valley; locations in the mountains of Colorado and Idaho have 150 to 200 percent of average water contained in the snow pack, leading to a higher than normal flood potential there; and Wisconsin and northern Illinois have had heavy snows this winter that could cause continued flooding concerns this Spring.

Southeast drought continues to improve
On the plus side, the area of the Southeast U.S. covered by the severest form of drought--exceptional drought--has shrunk to a small spot over southern Tennessee/northern Alabama, and Georgia is free of exceptional drought for the first time since July. The drought is expected to continue to improve between now and June over the Southeast U.S.

Jeff Masters

Batesville's west side is flooded. (pb4ugo)
Hundreds of residents ere evacuated earlier today. As the water continues to rise, hundreds more may have to leave their homes.
Batesville's west side is flooded.
Flooding Strikes NE Arkansas & SE Missouri (ArkaTechHog77)
Severe flooding hits the area. My stepfather took a friend up and snapped these shots. Photos taken around HWY 53 area around Qulin and Poplar Bluff. Others taken in Clay County, Arkansas.
Flooding Strikes NE Arkansas & SE Missouri
Kroger 3 (Hawg8)
Local flooding
Kroger 3

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214. FLWeatherFreak91
1:19 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
Hurricane... great site, but the link for the tampa/ruskin radar is wrong. It links to the tallahassee radar instead.
Member Since: December 1, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 3623
213. hurricane23
1:17 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
Hey folks for florida radars use my page you cant go wrong ive added many sites that will be of great use during days like today.SEE HERE
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13804
212. FLWeatherFreak91
1:12 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
Looks like a warm front has formed out ahead of the low. This will bring rain up past Tampa Link
Member Since: December 1, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 3623
209. Ivansrvivr
4:55 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
JFV, by the time the season starts there will 30-40times the current traffic on this blog daily. There will be so much traffic here you will have more resources than you could ever imagine.
207. cchsweatherman
12:47 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
Yes JFV. Why?
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
205. Ivansrvivr
4:32 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
The warm MDO waters have been absent the last few years. (I believe due to the "hyperactive 04 and 05 seasons) This may be the year they return. I know most forecasters and models arent expecting El Nino conditions anytime soon but look at the Pacific. Warm anomalies are eating away at the current La Nina from both ends and from below. While I do think El Nino conditions are possible by the end of the season, I don't think they will occur anywhere near soon enough to have a significant impact on this years' Atlantic Hurricane season. I think it will be effectively Nina to Neutral this season.
If you look at all the next season forecasts they are all shots in the dark. Nobody predicted last season right before it started. Were all just guessing. It's not much different than filling out your Brackets for college basketball. As the season nears there will be more guesses and predictions. Lets just hope that there's no loss of life or property this season.
203. GBlet
4:39 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
I miss Bonedog.....
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202. cchsweatherman
12:37 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
200. JFV 12:35 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
Hey Weatherman, would your website enter some kind or type of emergency mode; if there ever were a major hurricane headed directly towards South Florida?


Of course, JFV. I'll be working my site, making constant emails, and on the phone quite often. Always looking out for everyone.

Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
199. BahaHurican
12:06 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
Interesting numbers, 456.

I don't think they are out of the ball park, IF the forecast conditions materialize. I think the key variable will be how much the La Nina moderates, and to what extent. If we are practically at El Nino by November, I'd be very surprised.

I'm also wondering how much of an increase in SSTs we will see between Jun and August. If we are in an ENSO-neutral state by Sept-Oct, warmer than usual waters in the MDO would mean major landfalling storms are more likely.
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197. GBlet
4:04 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Hello everyone! The gomex looks ripe today. Can anyone tell me what effect La Nina has on the upcoming tornado season? Living in the middle of "Tornado Alley" can make a person nuts sometimes. We are hoping to not repeat last year!
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196. cchsweatherman
12:06 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
JFV, to answer your question, I've decided to hold back on my predictions since there are changes occuring now with La Nina and since I want to gather more data before I make them official predictions. I apologize for the delay.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
194. Ivansrvivr
3:56 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
456, Post La Nina seasons have been bad for the Eastern Seaboard 4 times in a row. Think Hugo, Isabelle, Gloria for examples. Your forecast of a stronger Eastward Bermuda high seems to indicate the same thing. I don't ever focus on numbers of named storms but I think it will be average to slightly above average. Steering is the key. The I'm thinking early Carribean development would tend westward, the cape verde storms could be bad for the Carolinas, while late season Carribean development would tend towards Florida.
192. Patrap
11:03 AM CDT on March 22, 2008
Great Job 456.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128616
190. Weather456
12:00 PM AST on March 22, 2008
179. Patrap 11:49 AM AST on March 22, 2008
Seasonal Forecasts are not an Indicator of what will happen, Its a guess at best.


Well if that is the case, then that is my guess.

Thanks JFV
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189. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
4:00 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
i tell it like it is jfv i wont lie or make more of it than it is and when it comes to weather its a crap shoot anything goes
my moto is
it can and will change everytime
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54268
188. Patrap
11:01 AM CDT on March 22, 2008
Forecasts, the seasonal Hurricane types are full of Many Variables. A MIT Super Puter cant crunch all the numbers, lets alone a Human.
I never look at one..nor worry over them.
Following the real storms and Observing them in the real time is best to understands the Single storm.Let alone 6 months worth. And No one nor computer can get a Handle on upwelling trends in a future scenario. Thats why I focus on Impacts and aftereffects. It's where the science meets the coastline, and Humans.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128616
185. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
3:57 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
iam getting some 55dbz signutures n of keys just south of mainland which indicates storms reaching severe levels
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54268
183. cchsweatherman
11:54 AM EDT on March 22, 2008
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
182. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
3:52 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
true pat its like pissing in the wind who knows where its gonna go
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54268
181. cchsweatherman
11:52 AM EDT on March 22, 2008
Storm, I meant the GOM.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
180. eaglesrock
3:49 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Another view of the CMC showing a 'cane near Florida:

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179. Patrap
10:49 AM CDT on March 22, 2008
Seasonal Forecasts are not an Indicator of what will happen, Its a guess at best.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128616
176. Weather456
11:16 AM AST on March 22, 2008
2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

Issued March 20, 2008 by W456

Main Indicators

ENSO
Rainfall Patterns over Western Africa
The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)
The Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO)
Continuations of above average activity

Overview of Indicators

During El Nino, high SST over the eastern Pacific causes more deep convection there. The resultant outflow aloft enhances upper tropospheric westerlies over the Caribbean and western equatorial Atlantic. Consequently, the 200 mb anticyclonic flow necessary for tropical cyclones to develop is reduced. During Neutrals and weak to moderate La Nina, low SSTs over the eastern Pacific suppress deep convection there. The resultant subsidence enhances lift and weak to moderate upper level easterlies over the Tropical Atlantic Summer, which favors tropical cyclone development.

West Africa represents the birth place of most Atlantic tropical cyclones. It is also the origin of the West African Dust outbreaks known as the Sahara Air Layer. Wetter than normal conditions over Sub-Shara Africa indicate wetter and cooler tropical waves decreasing the temperature gradient between the sea surface temperature and the 700 mb wave axis and suppressing convection. However, wetter than normal conditions also indicate reduce dust phenomena during the season. Drier than normal conditions produces hotter waves at 700 mb and as they move over the cooler sea surface temperatures, the temperature difference is enough to initiate convection which is needed for cyclogenesis. Though, drier conditions over West Africa means enhanced African Dust.

The Positive NAO index phase shows a stronger than usual subtropical high pressure center and a deeper than normal Icelandic low. The negative NAO index phase shows a weak and further centralized subtropical high and a weak Icelandic low. Negative NAO values imply more ridging in the central Atlantic and a warm North Atlantic Ocean due to stronger southerly winds during this period. Positive NAO values imply more ridging in the Eastern Atlantic and cooler sea surface temperatures especiallu along the West African Coast. A stronger ridge also indicate the probability of drier conditions over West Africa.

During the QBO, Atlantic tropical cyclones are more frequent when 30 mb winds are westerly and increasing, rather than easterly and increasing. There have been 44% more hurricanes and 74% more hurricane days during the west as opposed to east phase of the QBO.

Overview of Current and Extended Conditions

The current ENSO forecast calls for a weakening La Nina from now till June. During the months of May to August, temperature anomalies are forecast to be slightly cooler to near neutral conditions. Weak to neutral La Nina favor a slight increase in both the number of hurricanes and their intensity. These neutral conditions will extend into the remainder of the season up to November.

Over the past six months, there have been drier than normal conditions over Sub-Shara Africa which will indicate hotter and drier African Waves and increase Saharan Dust. Hotter and drier waves are more favored to produce convection as they enter the Atlantic and I believe this maybe the case between dust outbreaks. Also, a more eastward and stronger subtropical ridge (Positive NAO) will favor drier and dustier conditions and a more westward and weaker ridge (Negative NAO). Currently, the NAO index is near neutral but forecast to enter negative values this April which may indicate cooler Central Atlantic SSTs but warmer SSTs west of 60W and east of 30W.

The current tropical winds between 30 mb and 50 mb over the Tropical Atlantic are easterly and that corresponds to a 40 yr average between 1950-1999 of 8.53 storms. Atlantic tropical cyclone activity is inhibited during easterly phases of the QBO due to enhanced lower stratospheric wind ventilation and increased upper-troposphere-lower stratosphere wind shear. However, the trend of these stratospheric winds is decreasing and if this trend continues, the July 50-30 mb winds will enter a more weak easterly to weak westerly phase.

The Forecast

Based on the above information, adjustments to the normal seasonal average can be made. The 1950-2005 NOAA average is 11.0 named storms, 6.2 hurricanes and 2.7 major hurricanes. An addition of 2 storms for weak La Nina to Neutral. An addition of 2 storms for hotter tropical waves and subtraction of 1 storm for enhanced Saharan Conditions. An addition of 1 storm for negative NAO for April and an addition of 1 storm for expected QBO conditions. An addition of 1 storm for continuation of above normal tropical cyclone activity of past hurricane seasons

Preliminary Seasonal Forecast 16 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

Note: This forecast is subject to change and will be updated in May to inlcude SLP anomalies, 200 mb winds, 50 mb winds, sea surface temperatures and tracks.


Figure 1. CFS Seasonal Sea Surface Temperature Forecast


Figure 2. 6-month Accumulated Precipitation % of Normal
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175. Ivansrvivr
3:44 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
At 69W looks like the Bermuda high is in it's classic August position.
174. Patrap
10:44 AM CDT on March 22, 2008
I have a question...

With all this flooding to the north, what does this mean for us along the Mississippi river here in south Louisiana? Any ideas when the river will crest here?

Might be interesting to take a peek over the levee.


High river puts city on alert
Thursday March 20, 2008, 9:06 PM
Story: Link

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128616
172. Ivansrvivr
3:41 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
168 Hmann. Unless there is more heavy rain further south, the Mississippi wont flood where you are. It will drain slowly south and its many tributaries and wide path will reduce the crest the further south you go.
171. Ivansrvivr
3:38 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
CC, those winds indicate a stronger than expected surface low forming in the Gulf. The northeast side has the strongest winds but it has a definite closed circulation. (Thats what I see.)
168. Hurricanman
3:33 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
I have a question...

With all this flooding to the north, what does this mean for us along the Mississippi river here in south Louisiana? Any ideas when the river will crest here?

Might be interesting to take a peek over the levee.
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167. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
3:32 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
ive been a member now for almost a year storm yes it very good site i really like features as well and the updating freqency is what i like the most every 4 to 6 mins with that radar and every 10 to 15 mins for sats
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54268
166. cchsweatherman
11:35 AM EDT on March 22, 2008
This is quite interesting. Let me know what you see here.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
165. Ivansrvivr
3:31 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
As I was telling Adrian last night, these "little" low pressure systems can strengthen quickly over the Gulf when there is ample moisture available.
164. Ivansrvivr
3:22 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
StormW that is exactly what i think is likely to happen. The deep waters have warmed to the point where upwelling isn't going to feed this La Nina much longer at all. The strengthening sun will warm the upwelled waters quickly as spring leads into summer. Then the SOI will drop like a rock as warm anomalies spread from both sides of the Pacific. Still I don't think it will be into El Nino until after this hurricane season is done. I think this hurricane season will be "La Nina to ENSO neutral" overall as it will take time for La Nina's effects to wane.

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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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