Friday, February 19, 2010

NWS issues Red River flood outlook for North Dakota - similar flood to 2009 expected this spring

The National Weather Service in Grand Forks, ND released its latest flood outlook for the Red River today, and it expects flooding similar to that of last year again this spring. A combination of wet fall conditions, a heavy winter snowpack, and a prospect of additional spring precipitation have elevated the possibility of significant flooding of the Red River this year, especially in the southern part of the valley around Fargo which has a 98% chance of reaching major flood stage again this year. The risk of major flooding decreases as you head north towards the Canadian border, but NWS is still predicting a 55% chance of a major flood stage reaching the Canadian border. Keep in mind these are preliminary numbers based on current conditions. These probabilities will change based on the amount of precipitation received over the next month or two through the Red River valley basin as well as the rate of snowmelt. More details can be found from the NWS flood outlook.

Update: Feb 22: The province of Manitoba released its first spring flood outlook today for the province. With normal precipitation levels over the next two months, a flood higher than 2006 but lower than 2009 is predicted for the Red River.


  1. This would be the third consecutive spring ifwe receive substantial additional spring precipitation. That occurred only once that I recall 96-97-98.

    It would also continue our similarity to 1969. Unfortunately that year the Flood crest didn't reach Winnipeg until May 13th.

  2. Rob!

    That's quite the cold front coming in on Monday night!

    Hopefully that will be winter's last winter bite! (yeah.....dream on...)

  3. I just took a snow core at my place. Current water content is 50.0mm.

  4. Scott, that core exceeds (by 1mm) the total precip for EC at the Airport since November 1st. I assume you are east and or south.

    Do you have a core measurement in Charleswood ROB ?

  5. Rob!

    At 9:00 pm

    Winnipeg is -16 C
    Portage La Prairie is -6 C

    Why can a Portage La Prairie be so much warmer than Winnipeg when we are both sitting under the same airmass???

  6. Steinbach received over 25mm in that late January storm alone. Along with the Christmas system and the early February snowfall, this number is reasonable. I forgot to measure the snow depth, but I believe it is around 35cm, give or take. The storm in January dropped significant precipitation, but little of the snowfall accumulated due to the fact that it was very wet...but it is still represented in the snowpack as ice.

  7. Arctic Oscillation forecasts are showing a trend towards less negative values starting at the end of next week. This could lead to a warm start to March, which would be very nice.

  8. daniel.. the wide variation in temperatures tonight is due to cloud cover, or lack of it. Temperatures have dropped to the -15C to -18C range where skies have cleared, but remain in the minus single digits where it's cloudy. Regional temperatures will show you where it's cloudy and where it's clear.

  9. Rob!

    Any thoughts on tomorrow's cold front?

    Snow amounts and wind speeds???

  10. And we thought snow Blizzards were nasty

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  11. Some area up north in Nunavut are really feeling the windchill today with some approaching -64 C

    OUCH that's gotta hurt!

  12. - 38 windchill for tomorrow night!

    That's cold that we have not seen in quite some time!

  13. Anyone know why the Woodlands Radar is down again?

  14. Daryl!

    Have you always noticed that it is the woodlands and never the foxwarren radar that goes down!

  15. Daniel P

    Yes it does seem that way and further it seems to go down when it snows. The last time was during the blizzard a few weeks back and now again.

  16. Oh the radar is back online!

    And look at that cold front that is heading this way!!!

    Look for heavy snow in about a hour!

  17. Yeah that looks like more snow then this aftenoon but a little more compact. I guess the temp will drop rapidly when that snow hits us.

  18. Daniel

    Actully it appears that the snow is thinning out quite rapidly as it approaches Winnipeg. Might be running out of moisture,

  19. Daryl.
    Actually the leading edge of the snow is just over the radar site so it appears that the leading edge thins out when actually it remains just as potent!

  20. Band of snow moving in from the north is producing visibilities of 1.5 to 2 miles in light snow.. not particularly heavy, but enough to slick up the roads a bit with a dusting to 2 cm or so through this evening. Winds shift into the northwest behind it and bring in colder air with temps dropping to -25C by morning.. our coldest weather in awhile. Thankfully, it will be short lived as milder air works back in by mid to late week.

    BTW, Manitoba released its spring flood outlook today, see updated blog entry for link. With normal precipitation levels over the next two months, a flood higher than 2006 but lower than 2009 is predicted for the Red River.

  21. Rob!

    I have a question for you!!!

    If one were to ask you what kind of opportunity's are there in the field of Meteorology what would you say???

    I have always heard Environment Canada cutting back jobs year after year due to computer technology basically replacing forecasters!!!

  22. Wednesday morning looking cold with arctic high pressure sitting over us as expected. Temps at YWG will be tricky though with lite SW flow developing by dawn. Look for coldest temps from SE Manitoba into Grand Forks area. Same high will be over SE Saskatchewan tomorrow morning... we'll see what lows are like there.

    GFS struggling with evolution of omega block pattern over N America and its eventual breakdown by strong pacific energy. First wave dives south and travels along southern stream as upper ridge tries to build east over Manitoba. Column warms but not sure how much will manifest itself at surface with high pressure around for much of the period. We will have to wait for upper ridge axis to pass and west/southwesterly surface flow to develop for good warming.

    Next wave of energy (and one of interest for us) progged to come onshore approx Mar 3. Still see inverted trough signature for Alberta and Saskatchewan with freezing drizzle/rain a possibility. Things get murky as usual when upper level energy starts consolidating south and surface low pressure reorganizes in Colorado. At this point GFS takes the low south of us into the uprre midwest/ central plains.

    I would not be surrpised if future model runs further push back arrival of system given blocking pattern that is progged. We will have to see if that trend continues and look for definitve clues that block will breakdown. Any thoughts Rob or GF Dan?

  23. daniel..

    I would say that if you or someone is interested in the field of meteorology, go for it! Yes, EC's meteorological workforce is smaller due to automation and centralization, but there will always be a need for meteorologists to add their expertise and knowledge. As we all know, automation can't do everything.. and humans will always be needed to do the things machines can't do. (consider us akin to pilots.. auto-pilot technolgy does a lot of the work for them, but you don't want a machine landing an airplane!)

    Keep in mind also, there is always a turnover in EC staff retiring or moving on to other things, so EC continues to accept and train new recruits each year (a dozen or two) A good background in math and physics is required, but increasingly I would say that expertise in computer programming, GIS technology, and/or web design would be a great asset for future meteorologists given the direction of meteorological data dissemination.

  24. Thanks for that information !

  25. Rob your update of MBs flood forecast reminded me of a study by Pat Neuman (Retired NWS Hydrologist) from Chanhassen which studied the RRV and Central Minnesota and concluded a shift in spring temperatures was resulting in significanly earlier spring thaw at Fargo.

    IMO This climate trend of much earlier spring breakup in Fargo and the recent trend to greater precipitation March 1 thru RRV Crest (8 of the last 20 years and 7 of the last 15) suggests a higher probablty than 10%. for the a flood greater than last year.

    An updated study based on Pat’s data is available on my name or at at

  26. Earlier Fargo flood crests, and last year I believe was the first March crest in Fargo History, can result in more problems downstream unless there is a corresponding earlier breakup here.

  27. Based on a quick scan of the study.. I would not be surprised if there is another factor contributing to earlier commencement of high flow rates at Fargo. Perhaps changes w.r.t. drainage control structures on Lake Traverse etc...

    Otherwise I cannot see how snow melt could be occurring earlier at Fargo versus the other two stations which are forested (lower albedo) and at similar or lower latitude.

  28. Daniel its interesting to note that since 1950 each time there is a recovery to a later date in the other two stations (St Croix and St Louis Rivers) Fargo's snow melt trends sharply earlier.

  29. -29 C to -32 C were pretty common undert the ridge this morning. I do not expect it to get that cold at YWG tonite with lite SW flow developing.. however the SW flank of the city may drop down to -30 C early this evening before stabilizing.

    Looking at EC's extended forecast for Winnipeg... it is too optimistic (unfortunately). The guidance seems to often get tripped up by shallow inversions like the one which will likely set up over the extended period. Strong blocking pattern will prevent arctic high from moving far enough east, keeping us in a southerly valley flow. 850 hPa temps warm as arctic air modifies but with surface high possibly retrograding (moving back west), we are looking at a pattern very similar to what we experienced last week... clear skies will allow for cold nites and limited recovery over high albedo areas (RRV).

    Have to keep an eye on signs of block breaking down towards end of extended (2 week) period. GFS has been consistent with general idea of Colorado low ejecting out somewhere between Mar 5-8 for quite some time now...

  30. Daniel

    Hi We were discussing the long range today and actually the past few days. Right now the AO is very negative and blocking very strong and our local climate person in the office is thinking it will persist through mid March. But once it gives way it will do so quickly followed by a potential storm end of March time period. As always a bit tricky dealing that far out. Of course huge implications for our flood.

    In chat with the RFC in Chanhassen the year 1969 comes up again and again.

  31. Dan GF
    If the surface weather similarity to 69 continues we have an opportunity to observe the effect at a time when the average spring melt commencement date in Fargo is 25-30 days earlier.. e.g. March 27 1969 to Feb 28 2009

    Also Interesting is, that although the Melt begin date in Fargo is 30 days earlier, the actual (not average) Flood Crest date is only 18 days... Apr 14 1969 to Mar 27 2009.
    In Winnipeg in 69 it took another 29 days (May 13th) to reach here.

  32. Daniel
    Thanks for the caution on the Data. The early drawdown of Lake Traverse by the corps of engineers appears to have an effect on the "Snow Melt Date" especially since the 1996.

    This years Lake Traverse drawdown began Feb 16 (usually Mar 1)..If you look at the USGS water flow data for each of the RR locations upstream of Fargo you can see the increase stream flow about a week later in Fargo for example. (this artificially effected date appears to be used in the Data)

  33. It appears that February will be lacking a Temperature greater than 0 C.

    When was the last time and how frequently does this occur.

  34. Rob!

    Have you ever heard of a "SNOWICANE"

    How about "SNOWMAGGEDON"

    Yet more superlatives to describe the upcoming east coast storm!

  35. Interesting question Anonymous. It's happened 5 times since 2000, though it isn't highly usual; from 1939-2000, only 11 februarys didnt get to 0C, according to my findings. The last time we didnt hit +0 in Feb was in 2008.

  36. If interested, I set up a live webcam of the Red River right outside of my window. I live in Fargo.

  37. Thanks for your link, Ben. We'll be watching. Looks like you guys are ready for the worst this year. Hopefully things aren't as bad as last year. Best of luck..

  38. Clouds look to hang around for a better part of this weekend as slow moving shortwave digs over us. It will will eventually drag a weak surface trough and switch our winds back to northerly. High pressure builds back in although GFS brings in a follow up disturbance.

    Both GEM and GFS agree on good warm up next week as upper ridge axis finally moves east and surface ridge moves SE. Things get unclear as large pacific trough tries to crash onshore around Mar 3.

    It appears as though this system will wash out due to strong blocking in place as suggested previously. Models diverge... GFS colder then GEM allowing northern shortwaves to erode upper ridge putting us back into a NW flow. Deep Pacific trough will persist awaitng a breakdown of block...

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