Changing Planet

Major flooding forecast for a third of U.S.

This post is part of a special National Geographic news series on global water issues.

Major flooding has begun and is forecast to continue through spring in parts of the U.S. Midwest, NOAA’s National Weather Service warned today.

“Overall, more than a third of the contiguous United States has an above average flood risk–with the highest threat in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa, including along the Red River Valley where crests could approach the record levels set just last year,” NOAA said in a news release.

The U.S. South and East are also more susceptible to flooding as an El Niño influenced winter left the area soggier than usual, the agency added.

flood-risk-map.jpg

Map courtesy of NOAA

Supporting the forecast of imminent Midwest flooding is a snowpack more extensive than in 2009 and containing in excess of 10 inches of liquid water in some locations, NOAA explained.

Until early March, consistently cold temperatures limited snow melt and runoff, the agency added.

These conditions exist on top of: above normal streamflows; December precipitation that was up to four times above average; and the ground which is frozen to a depth as much as three feet below the surface.

“It’s a terrible case of déjà vu, but this time the flooding will likely be more widespread. As the spring thaw melts the snowpack, saturated and frozen ground in the Midwest will exacerbate the flooding of the flat terrain and feed rising rivers and streams,” said Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “We will continue to refine forecasts to account for additional precipitation and rising temperatures, which affect the rate and severity of flooding.”

“In the South and East, where an El Niño-driven winter was very wet and white, spring flooding is more of a possibility than a certainty and will largely be dependent upon the severity and duration of additional precipitation and how fast existing snow cover melts,” said Jack Hayes, director of the National Weather Service. “Though El Niño is forecast to continue at least through spring, its influence on day-to-day weather should lessen considerably.”

Without a strong El Niño influence, climate forecasting for spring (April through June) is more challenging, but NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says odds currently favor wetter-than-average conditions in coastal sections of the Southeast. “Warmer-than-average temperatures across the western third of the nation and Alaska; and below-average temperatures in the extreme north-central and south-central U.S.,” NOAA said.

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • lisjardine

    Why should we be surprised when rivers dow what rivers do? All these years the likes of NGF have preached the holy horror of insults against the Amazon River basin, for instance. Yet forgetting what in the 18th/19th centuries we “norte-americanos” did to the river basins of our northern side of the western hemisphere. The Mississippi River basin, including the Red River and its drainage basin, ain’t that much different, en effet, from that of the Amazonian. So why do we direct peoples’ attentions’ other where, when it is here right under their very own feet and houses they ought to be considering the whole matter of what the human impact of humans upon the planet is? Like, what did you do to alter a creek, a river today?

  • tomcool32

    The condition is eventually related to global warming. The increasing tempratures are a growing concern. The situation could go out of hand if not controlled soon. A very thought-provoking article. Hats-off to the team. The statistics are very convincing in agreement with analysis carried out here in India.

  • dazzie

    I still think we have much to learn from the devestating effects of Hurricane Katrina. Minnesota needs much more in the way of flood defences and only an emergency will highlight this. NOAA keep up the good work.

  • Munnu

    With Hurricane Katrina doing the damage it did, we don’t see another disaster of that magnitude again! I hope we have learnt our lesson and every protection is in place for such natural disasters! As the areas prone to be flooded have been earmarked, it will be easier for the authorities to start taking precautions at the earliest and not wait for the worst to happen!!

  • chrise

    We too in Kenya are experiencing the worst floods in decades. Even the deserts and semi-arid areas are flooded. So, that 2 countries on that are worlds apart are experiencing unusual flooding this is further testament that climate change is real.

  • justlivin

    In seems like natural and now man made disasters keep getting worse. With respect to natural disasters I’ve read they are in line with normal numbers. But now with the oil spill things are getting very scary and hopefully floods and hurricanes do not mix with the oil.

  • susuanlulu

    Absolutely, the weather become more erratic, there are more earthquakes and more floods than before, hoping it does not deteriorate too strong before humans find a way.

  • lone

    Why is it always a surprise that the weather can strike? If you track the changes over the years you can see this is going to be the norm from now on. We’re just visitors to the circuit of life and we’re on track to numbered days. The earth is fighting back!

  • lone

    Why is it always a surprise that the weather can strike? If you track the changes over the years you can see this is going to be the norm from now on. We’re just visitors to the circuit of life and we’re on track to numbered days. The earth is fighting back!
    trackdays don’t help, so i wont preach anymore.

  • sksean

    I’m so surprised to see that florida has, for the most part, a minimal flood risk. Especially in its southern most parts.

  • Graham

    The flooding has started already and I believe they are right we’ll be seeing flooding all through Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa.

  • yemek tarifleri asure

    I don’t want to imagine the results of ignoring global warming. This is what the “world leaders” do today. We can feel the impacts of this problem even in our daily lives. Global regulations are needed.

  • arwansp

    It’s not only happen in US but most all over the world including my county Indonesia. It should now a dry season here but raining has just begun and flooding the city. The climate really has changed and unpredictable.

  • adam

    Even in india , this is the case , So USA is not only the country facing the problem.i hope this will get solved soon

  • Michael Roy

    There are nearly 5 states of US under the high risk of Flood pressure and rest of the states don’t have such problems. Lets see how US govt. will plan to face it. I am gathering data of commercial landscaping companies in New Jersey.
    Thanks

  • Sussib

    Definitely seems that natural disasters keep getting worse and worse. It’s all we ever hear about.

  • Greg

    I’m not sure what to make of all this. Are these weather patterns truly out of the ordinary? Are we just watching weather closer these days? Improved communication and global connectivity just raises awareness? I mean, extreme weather patterns and events have been happening on this planet forever. The US was under ice on several occasions. Surely, some is probably man made.. just not sure how much to attribute to such. Definitely not an easy question.

  • bradr

    If you track the changes over the years you can see this is going to be the norm from now on. We’re just visitors to the circuit of life and we’re on track to numbered days.

  • LisaV

    yeah, I have been living in Texas for the last 20 years and in the last 5 years I have noticed a big change in the severity of flooding, but in the flip side of that our summers are also now more extreme. 2 years ago we had a very, very bad drought.

  • Colin

    Nowadays,natural disasters keep getting worse not only in U.S. but also in China. Heavy rain causes flood in South China in recent days.

  • caruso12065

    The Northeast is finally getting some rain after 2 months of almost nothing. The rain totals were going down almost even with refinance rates if you could believe that. I guess it all evens out though in the end, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the East coast now has to battle flooding issues.

  • lucy43

    Intimately, the article is really the best on this worth while topic. I fit in with your conclusions and will thirstily look forward to your next updates. Saying thanks will not just be adequate, for the exceptional clarity in your writing.

  • lucy43

    Now the mother earth is showing it’s cruelty. There is still time we can make it happen.

  • Emanprinting

    This time the flooding will likely be more widespread in South ans East U.S. But this article is really informative and helpful thanks for share this information with us.

  • vero216

    I have been living in Texas for the last 20 years and in the last 5 years I have noticed a big change in the severity of flooding, but in the flip side of that our summers are also now more extreme.

  • abound1

    I lived in Atlanta the last few years and we had severe droughts, to see that we’re in a flood warning area scares me a little. Hope it doesn’t hit too bad. I’ve seen similar posts on different Adventure Travel blogs but this one seems legit.

  • indusa

    These floods are obviously climate change-induced. And, we can expect more unprecedented floods and severe droughts. The moral of this story is that we each need to do our bit to reduce our carbon footprint.

  • Albu

    If you track the changes over the years you can see this is going to be the norm from now on. We’re just visitors to the circuit of life and we’re on track to numbered days. The earth is fighting back!

  • mpbennett47

    We really can’t avoid nor stop any calamities that might come. Maybe can can prevent this things happen again by start loving our mother nature.rid lice

  • lachs12

    We have to stop polluting our nature, because it is ALL WE HUMANS HAVE.
    Lebensversicherung Rechner

  • Peter Armenti

    Then again.. if we don’t do something now, it could get worse.. but we don’t know exactly what to correct.. oh, the troubles we’ve seen.. and will see 🙁
    Peter Armenti

  • lachs12

    Major flooding will ruin the States soon, many people will die in this floods.
    Rürup Vergleich

  • BOB Hershal

    i am looking for the objects of these disasters. and getting some information from different ways. but now i need some information about 70-291 and 70-270 exams. so can you help me out..?

  • karin79

    Unfortunately it always seems that we need an emergency to get things moving. People don’t get off their high horse and fork over money until it’s clear that it’s needed.. the unfortunate thing is at that point they need 10 times more than it would have cost to be preventative.. I don’t know how to fix human nature.

  • Abram

    we need to work more about the global warming.Very good blog.
    Thanks NG

  • freakout

    question is if any of those theories about global warming realy work.
    just take a look at the world cup.
    ok it’s their winter time, but it is simply to cold right now.
    same thing here in europe!
    greetz,

  • euromillions

    Then again.. if we don’t do something now, it could get worse.. but we don’t know exactly what to correct.. oh, the troubles we’ve seen.. and will see 🙁

  • euromillions

    I’m not sure what to make of all this. Are these weather patterns truly out of the ordinary? Are we just watching weather closer these days? Improved communication and global connectivity just raises awareness? I mean, extreme weather patterns and events have been happening on this planet forever. The US was under ice on several occasions. Surely, some is probably man made.. just not sure how much to attribute to such. Definitely not an easy question.

  • alex

    Major flooding has begun & is forecast to continue through spring in parts of the Midwest according to NOAA’s National Weather Service. The South & East are also more susceptible to flooding as an El Niño influenced winter left the area soggier than usual. Overall, over a third of the contiguous United States has an above average floodwater risk –– with the highest threat in the Dakotas, Minnesota & Iowa, including along the Red River Valley where crests could approach the record levels set last year.

  • Husker

    In the South and East, where an El Niño-driven winter was very wet and white, spring flooding is more of a possibility than a certainty and will largely be dependent upon the severity and duration of additional precipitation and how fast existing snow cover melts,” said Jack Hayes, director of the National Weather Service. “Though El Niño is forecast to continue at least through spring, its influence on day-to-day weather should lessen considerably.”
    auto transport
    Without a strong El Niño influence, climate forecasting for spring (April through June) is more challenging, but NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says odds currently favor wetter-than-average conditions in coastal sections of the Southeast. “Warmer-than-average temperatures across the western third of the nation and Alaska; and below-average temperatures in the extreme north-central and south-central U.S.,” NOAA said.

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