Mar 5, 2014

Insult to injury

Spring thaw is days away for our friends up north.

That's a good thing, right?

Continental streams typically peak in spring, and some more than others.  The hydrograph above shows the Red River's current stage relative to the record crests of previous years and relative to the 25-year historical stats.  The black line showing this year's current level is an estimate (the channel is currently iced over).  

Not if you're a hydrologist in North Dakota's Red River Valley.

Instead of being gently eased out of the depths of winter with soothing thoughts of the coming spring (think signing birds and sprigs of rejuvenate green), the fine citizens of Fargo, North Dakota are rudely awoken to the harrowing specter of a snow-melt fueled Red River on a rapid and uncontrollable rise. Even worse is that a disproportionate amount of the Red River's record crests have occurred in just the past few years. Or in other words, this isn't your grandfather's "relatively tame" Red River.

The good news is that current river stage, pre snow melt, is around 15 ft.  The not so good news is that the onset of the snow-melt season is just about to begin.  How high will it rise?  Local meteorologists and hydrologists are no doubt on top of that ball.

Recent flood years have topped out around 40 ft.

That's your text-book continental spring flood.

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