Monday, April 22, 2013

From Extreme Drought to Extreme Flood - Weather 'Whiplash' Hits the U. S. Midwest. Just a few months ago barges were scraping bottom on the Mississippi River, and the Army Corps of Engineers was blowing up rocks on the bottom of the river to allow shipping to continue. Water levels on the Mississippi River at St. Louis bottomed out at -4.57' on January 1 of 2013, the 9th lowest water level since record keeping began in 1861, and just 1.6' above the all-time low-water record set in 1940 (after the great Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s.)
But the exceptional April rains and snows over the Upper Mississippi River watershed will drive the river by Tuesday to a height 45 feet higher than it was on January 1. The latest forecast calls for the river to hit 39.4' on Tuesday, which would be the 8th greatest flood in history at St. Louis, where flood records date back to 1861.
Damaging major flooding is expected along a 250-mile stretch of the Mississippi from Quincy, Illinois to Thebes, Illinois next week. At the Alton, Illinois gauge, upstream from St. Louis, a flood height of 34' is expected on Tuesday. This would be the 6th highest flood in Alton since 1844, and damages to commercial property in the town of Alton occur at this water level.
In addition, record flooding is expected on at least five rivers in Illinois and Michigan over the next few days. A crest 1.5' above the all-time record has already occurred on the Des Plaines River in Chicago. A crest on the Grand River in Grand Rapids, Michigan nearly 4' above the previous record (period of record: at least 113 years) was expected this weekend. At this flood level, major flooding of residential areas is expected, though the flood wall protecting downtown Grand Rapids will keep the commercial center of the city from flooding.
Residents along the Mississippi River have experienced a severe case of flood-drought-flood weather whiplash over the past two years. The Mississippi reached its HIGHEST LEVEL ON RECORD at New Madrid, Missouri on May 6, 2011, when the river crested at 48.35'. Flooding on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers that year cost an estimated $5 billion. The next year, after the great drought of 2012, the river had fallen by over 53' to an ALL TIME RECORD LOW of -5.32' on August 30, 2012. Damage from the great drought is conservatively estimated at $35 billion.
Next Tuesday, the river is expected to be at flood stage again in New Madrid, 40' higher than the August 2012 record low. Now, that is some serious weather whiplash. Seemingly contradictory predictions from climate models state that the world will see both worse floods and worse droughts due to global warming. Well, we have seen a classic example in the Midwest U.S. over the past two years of just how this kind of weather whiplash is possible.
A warmer atmosphere is capable of bringing heavier downpours, since warmer air can hold more water vapor. We saw an example of this on Thursday morning, when an upper air balloon sounding over Lincoln, Illinois revealed NEAR-RECORD AMOUNTS OF MOISTURE FOR THIS TIME OF YEAR. The precipitable water - how much rain could fall if one condensed all the water vapor in a column above the ground into rain - was 1.62", just barely short of the Illinois April record for precipitable water of 1.64" set on April 20, 2000 (upper air records go back to 1948.)
Thursday's powerful low pressure system was able to lift that copious moisture, cool it, and condense it into RECORD RAINS. How can you have worse droughts with more moisture in the air? Well, you still need a low pressure system to come along and wring that moisture out of the air to get rain. When natural fluctuations in jet stream patterns take storms away from a region, creating a drought, the extra water vapor in the air won't do you any good. There will be no mechanism to lift the moisture, condense it, and generate drought-busting rains. The drought that ensues will be more intense, since temperatures will be hotter and the soil will dry out more.

**By working faithfully eight hours a day
you may eventually get to be boss
and work twelve hours a day.**
Robert Frost


Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -

Yesterday -
4/21/13 -

China quake: Rescuers reach remote damaged villages - 207 people are dead or missing after the quake, and 11,500 are injured, 960 of them seriously. More than 1,300 aftershocks have been felt in the area since the 6.6 magnitude quake struck at 08:02 local time (00:02 GMT) on Saturday. The earthquake rocked a mountainous area of China's western Sichuan province less than 100 miles from the provincial capital of Chengdu. Nearly two dozen people are missing, mostly in the rural communities around Ya'an city, along the same fault line where a devastating quake to the north struck along the same fault line almost five years ago.

Magnitude 5.9 earthquake jolts Mexico - A 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck in the Mexican state of Michoacan on Sunday night, causing buildings to sway 200 miles away in Mexico City.

Volcano Webcams

Columbia - A magnitude M3.6 earthquake struck Nevado Del Ruiz volcano late Friday, part of the ongoing volcano-tectonic earthquake swarm occurring there. A magnitude M4.0 event occurred at the volcano the day before.

Moderate earthquake near Dieng volcano, Java, Indonesia – 311 houses damaged. Contrary to earlier reports, no building collapsed due to the quake, but at least 311 houses were damaged. 34 of them with severe and 27 with moderate damage. 2 people were injured by the quake. A woman and her child suffered fractures and were taken to a nearby hospital.
Evacuated people are gradually returning to their villages due to a decrease in volcanic activity of the Dieng volcano complex. It is expected that this quake was tectonic nature, but with probable influence to the volcano. 86 weaker quakes followed the main shock within 25 minutes. 1000 people were evacuated to shelters provided by the Indonesian authorities.
The earthquakes are part of the ongoing activity of the Dieng volcano. The alert level was raised on March 27. (photo & map)


No current tropical storms.


New Zealand Set for More Rainfall as Residents Assess Weekend Damage - New Zealand's North Island may receive further rainfall today, helping ease THE MOST WIDESPREAD DROUGHT IN AT LEAST 30 YEARS that curbed milk output, as residents assess damage from a weekend of heavy showers.


H7N9 cases in China top 100 as deaths reach 20 - The number of novel H7N9 flu cases in China rose steadily over the weekend, with reports of 11 more infections pushing the total so far to 102.