Spring snowstorm adds to flooding potential for the Midwest

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 16:52 GMT le 24 Mars 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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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
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Quoting RastaSteve:


It's Tampa what can I say as they seem to be behind the 8 ball. Just Saying! Here's the Nws of Melbourne synopsis above.


Keywords: possibly strong to severe, ok maybe a chance is coming into play, but those models could change, plus it may warrant a see text or slight risk, but a moderate to high risk? I highly doubt that. As much as I go absolutely crazy like its Christmas over strong thunderstorms, I just don't think the severe threat will be very high, I try my best to give an accurate synopsis, not a hyped forecast.

Is there a chance it could be quite a bit higher? Yeah its still 5 days out, and in weather, you can't rule anything out completely. But its really a very unlikely chance.

I think the biggest chance out of anything next week will be heavy rain, but exactly how much will be hard to say, anytime a frontal system stall out, it makes it quite hard to pinpoint rainfall, because it could end up being very heavy, or the system runs out of gas and there is just isolated heavy rain recipients.

Either way, one thing is for certain, I do believe it appears at least some drought relief is headed for Florida with the pattern change. Hopefully rainfall will be significant.
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Quoting RastaSteve:
Very rarely do you see NOAA forecast that much rain for FL this time of year unless they were 100% sure it would happen and those numbers by NOAA maybe a little conservative as they normally are in the SE US during La-Nina.
Morning Rasta...This is worth a look. Notice the size and strength of these storms moving across the U.S. into our region on the NCEP......Link....Definitely a decent shot at some late season snow storms and cold fronts for Florida. If one of the fronts would stall over the state, you could get copious amounts of rain....
Member Since: 27 septembre 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22582
Quoting islander101010:


corporations are ruling america its time for the people to stand up if they want to sell their crap here then pay their dues those taxes could pay for our weather service.


Were you aware that any taxes paid by those corporation are simply tacked on to the selling price of their goods and services? In a round about way, we pay their taxes too. Thanks to WorkinMan for bringing that point up.



as for oil we should save our reserves (money in the bank) and continue buying the arabs. in 20 yrs we might be happy we saved some.

Is it possible that the American oil companies have been doing that all along. With all the money they have at their disposal, they could have easily mounted a huge campaign to explore for and drill for oil to their hearts content and won handily. No coubt, the politicians would have been groveling at their feet for more campaign contributions.

Could it be that maybe they haven't fought the drilling bans because it meant the Arabs were depleting their resources and would eventually run out of oil? And what happens when resources become more scarce? Higher prices? Very likely.

Isn't that called Supply and Demand?



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n
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Quoting Grothar:


What did you use for a chaser? Hey, are we going to get rain in South Florida or what? I still can't find any decent maps. Even the GFS is vague.
Look at this monster at the end of the GEM run....Link
Member Since: 27 septembre 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22582
784. IKE

Quoting RastaSteve:


Good morning IKE!
Good morning.


Quoting aquak9:
g'morning dayshift

tip'o'the'day: Never drink a whole bottle of Delsym

Ike I like that QPF...what pretty wavey colors...look at how they flow with the music...deeeep thoughts....
You should be getting some much needed rain!
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Quoting Thundercloud01221991:
The severe threat today looks to be underestimated by many. I think we are looking at a high end moderate by days end.
The SPC does mention a possible upgrade to the (high end) slight risk area...Link
Member Since: 27 septembre 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22582
Quoting aquak9:
g'morning dayshift

tip'o'the'day: Never drink a whole bottle of Delsym

Ike I like that QPF...what pretty wavey colors...look at how they flow with the music...deeeep thoughts....


What did you use for a chaser? Hey, are we going to get rain in South Florida or what? I still can't find any decent maps. Even the GFS is vague.
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Quoting aquak9:
g'morning dayshift

tip'o'the'day: Never drink a whole bottle of Delsym


Duh ;)
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g'morning dayshift

tip'o'the'day: Never drink a whole bottle of Delsym

Ike I like that QPF...what pretty wavey colors...look at how they flow with the music...deeeep thoughts....
Member Since: 13 août 2005 Posts: 177 Comments: 26629
Quoting IKE:
5 day QPF......




Hope it pans out with a bit higher amounts to ensure a good soaking but not too much to possibly cause sink holes.
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Good Morning.... has been a while. Almost April 6th for the Seasonal HURR FCST.
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775. IKE
5 day QPF......


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The severe threat today looks to be underestimated by many. I think we are looking at a high end moderate by days end.
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corporations are ruling america its time for the people to stand up if they want to sell their crap here then pay their dues those taxes could pay for our weather service. as for oil we should save our reserves (money in the bank) and continue buying the arabs. in 20 yrs we might be happy we saved some.
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Quoting Chicklit:
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).



Never mind the fact that corporations don't pay taxes anyway... they simply pass any taxes owed to any government to the bottom line of their price for product. Let's not even get into how many products GE makes, but consider your cable/satellite bill... isn't it high enough for you already?

Now, while I'm sure you'd love to slather up this blog with political BS, it is a W-E-A-T-H-E-R blog. Please... Take your tax argument elsewhere... PLEASE!

As the rules of the blog state:

When using Dr. Masters' blog, please refrain from posting material not relevant to the discussion of tropical weather, or the topic of the blog entry itself.
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771. Ylee
Whee! All this political talk earlier tonight had eveyones' ruffles up...
I think everyone in WU land needs to take a deep breath and have a Moment of Zen.....
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Quoting DARPAsockpuppet:


Avenged Sevenfold on Dr. Masters meteorology blog? Now that's controversial indeed, lol.
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Quoting RastaSteve:
That model which has been consitant all week would indicate a moderate to high risk severe potential for all of the FL Penisula. These wind profiles are off the charts Thursday night for C FL. A strong Upper level jet combined with 50 to 70knt low level winds above the surface is a dangerous set up especially with so much heat in place.


Mid to high risk? Alright, you can't rule anything out in meteorology, I understand that, but lets not get ahead of ourselves remember, the SPC are professionals that call the shots on severe weather, so typically they lean conservative with forecasts.

To get a moderate risk or high risk for a Florida late March/early April, the driest and least convective time of year typically, that's unusual indeed. Besides, local forecasters, including the NWS, haven't given me any indication that I should be expecting a severe weather outbreak next week.


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Quoting RastaSteve:
Reed Timmer/The TIV in C FL well it could happen if this verifies.


I highly doubt Reed Timmer will come to Florida, Florida has too much thick sub-tropical forests. Plus, although we get many tornadoes typically in Florida. Most of them are relatively weak, erratic, and unpredictable. Even further, most tornadoes here are rain wrapped do to almost always extremely heavy precip that accompanies convection in Florida.
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Quoting twincomanche:

It was a long time ago, in a land far far away from America today I hope. I think there will be a little different demographic if people go to the street this time and a National Guard that has mostly served overseas and has a way better idea what this Country is about.

Anyway enough of this. Back to the weather. Out for the night.


:)
Not that you're out for the night, but for the good thought. And let's hope it does not come to that.
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latest 00Z run GFS
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#754

Excellent instrumentals and surpasses the length of this classic:

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There are people out there who are not interested in your health and well being. They think your health is your responsibility and there is a law, Darwin's Law, that will determine whether you survive or not. If you don't make it, then according to them, the world is better for it.
These are the people who are currently taking sway over public opinion. These are also the people who are in positions of power. Who give themselves tax breaks and also have access to medical care that will warn them in plenty of time that something is amiss with their health so they have a chance to do something about it.
If you don't like the message, then don't shoot the messenger. Do something about it.
If this is okay with you, then well you're in the driver's seat. But odds are, you're not.
Member Since: 11 juillet 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11423
Quoting Chicklit:
Washingtonian, god forbid you would have to question yourself and actually think about something....sorry will bring this back to something you can be far enough removed from so as not to question yourself such as, .... um.

Radiation
I'm sorry.I'm just not...very fond on politics.However I've never really had conversations to people about radiation.However I did find out some side effects you could get form it.It can be very lethal...
Member Since: 14 août 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17795
Washingtonian, god forbid you would have to question something....sorry will bring this back to a subject you can be far enough removed from so as not to question yourself such as, ....
Radiation
Member Since: 11 juillet 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11423
Quoting flsky:
Perhaps we should take issue with these loopholes.


Who is guarding the guards???
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748. flsky
Perhaps we should take issue with these loopholes.

Quoting Chicklit:
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).

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Quoting twincomanche:

It was a long time ago, in a land far far away from America today I hope. I think there will be a little different demographic if people go to the street this time and a National Guard that has mostly served overseas and has a way better idea what this Country is about.

Anyway enough of this. Back to the weather. Out for the night.

Agreed.
I deleted that, but after you quoted it.
Did not think it was constructive.

Anyway, take care.
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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.
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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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