Early Spring Basin Conditions
February 21, 2008
HUDSON BAY DRAINAGE
SUMMARY OF PAST AND CURRENT CONDITIONS
Red River of the North River Basin: The NOHRSC recorded soil moistures in the Red River Valley in early November at about 20 to 25 percent in the upper 20 cm with their gamma survey aircraft. Wilkin County reports the top foot of soil is bone dry in the headwaters of the Red River Valley. The Palmer Drought Index for the Red River Valley is near normal.
In Fargo the normal water equivalent for November to February is around three inches. Currently the modeled water equivalent in the Fargo area a little over two inches. Therefore the water in the current snowpack is an inch below normal. The average modeled water equivalent is a little over two inches for the entire Valley.
As far as winter temperatures in the Red River Valley go, the Fargo observation station has recorded about 4200 heating degree days as of February 13th. The normal is 3700 so Fargo is about 500 heating degree days above normal. Frost depths are two to three feet deep in the southern part of the Valley. No frost depth reports are available north of Fargo.
Devils Lake Basin: Soil conditions in the basin were slightly dry entering the winter as the U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that conditions are abnormally dry. Despite near normal precipitation this winter, precipitation last fall was 1 to 2 inches below normal. NOHRSC airborne gamma soil moisture readings indicated 20 to 25 percent moisture in the upper portion of the soil.
Snow water equivalent values range from about 1.5 inches in the south to 2 inches in the north and nearly 2.5 inches in the northeast.
Devils Lake and Stump Lake have equalized and are at a level of about 1447 feet down from a high last June of 1447.95 feet and a record high of 1449.20 feet in May of 2006.
Souris River Basin: Severe hydrologic drought conditions persist over most of the Souris River Basin with an area of extreme drought appearing this week in the vicinity of Westhope, ND. During the past year precipitation totals have been about 3 to 6 inches less than normal. The NOHRSC airborne gamma soil moisture readings indicated less than 15 percent moisture in the upper portion of the soil.
Between 1 and 2 inches of snow water equivalent are present in the Canadian and far northeastern portions of the basin. However, the middle portion of the basin has less than an inch of water equivalent.
GREAT LAKES DRAINAGE
SUMMARY OF PAST AND CURRENT CONDITIONS:
Upper Peninsula of Michigan River Basins: Fall precipitation for September to November was above normal. October had twice normal precipitation. Average temperatures were a few degrees above normal. December precipitation was normal east to almost twice normal in the western UP with near normal temperatures.
January was a wet month around Great lakes. Precipitation was normal west to almost twice normal for the eastern UP. Snowfall is well above normal for the UP, more than 60 inches, due to several lake effect snows. Temperatures were 2 to 5 degrees above normal.
February precipitation averaged close to normal while temperatures are a few degrees below normal west to a few degrees above normal east.
The U.S. Drought Monitor for December 2007 through February 2008 shows the UP is in the "Abnormally Dry" category.
Snow Depths averaged 15 to 25 inches along the southern half of the peninsula and 25 to 45 inches along northern half. Snow water equivalents are generally 2 to 5 inches with amounts from 6 to 9 inches along the north shore in the lake effect snow areas.
Menominee River Basin: According the U.S Drought Monitor all of the Menominee River Basin is "Abnormally Dry" and the southwest corner including the basins of Pine and Popple River are in a "Moderate Drought". This may seem unusual since the USGS shows most of the rivers at normal to just above normal flow. The flow conditions are likely due to warmer than normal temperatures and high dew points in January for two different precipitation events. These events had a little rain but mainly created snow melt runoff.
Contributing to the dry state of the Menominee has been below average precipitation for the past 60 to 90 days as of early February. Currently early to mid February has also been below average for precipitation in the form of snow. The northern portion of the basin is about normal for snow water equivalent but the central and southern portions are running about 60 to 80 percent of expected SWE.
Frozen ground depth ranges from 1 to 3 ft depending on the whether it's in an open area or forested region.
Ice has been an issue affecting gage stages but thus far hasn't been an issue for ice jam flooding.
Northern Lower Michigan Basins : For the Northern Lower Michigan basins which include the Manistee, Boardman, Au Sable, and Rifle Rivers, Fall precipitation, September through November was generally near normal with a slightly dryer than normal while November was about 50 to 75 percent of normal. Streamflows during this same period were below normal to normal with November falling in the much below normal category, less than 24 percent of normal due to below normal precipitation for the month.
As Winter began, precipitation was near normal for December and 150 to 200 percent above normal in January. Streamflow rebounded in January due to the above normal precipitation and was rated at normal to above normal or greater than 76 percent according to the USGS.
According to the USGS, the rivers are flowing above the 75th percentile in much of this region
Snow water equivalents of the snow pack range between 2 and 4 inches. Current snow depths range from 8 to 15 inches in the north 15 to 22 inches in the south of the forecast group.
Grand Muskegon White and Saginaw Basins: For the Grand, Muskegon, White, Pere Marquette, and Saginaw River basins the MRCC charts indicate that Fall precipitation which encompasses last September through November was about 50 to 75 percent of normal. Going into the winter months, December was near normal while January became fairly wet with values running from 125 to 200 percent of normal.
Also from the MRCC, current soil moisture is indicated to be somewhat above normal, running in the range of about 15 to 30 percent above the average for this time of year.
Across central lower Michigan most snow depths are in the 6 to 15 inch range but some are a little lower due to considerable settling and compacting that has occurred and some are a little higher especially in areas closer to Lake Michigan with lake effect snows. Current water equivalents of the snow pack are quite variable and range from about 1 to 3.5 inches with the higher amounts being reported near Grand Rapids.
Frost depths appear to be fairly shallow only around 2 inches or so due most likely to the prolonged snowcover and a strong up and down temperature pattern that this region has experienced over the last several weeks.
An effect of the cold/warm/cold again weather pattern mentioned above is that river ice development, movement, and jamming has been a problem occurrence at a number of locations along the Grand River and other local streams since about the beginning of January resulting in a number of repetitive localized flooding events.
Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and Southeastern Michigan Streams: This region went into the winter with slightly drier than normal soil moisture conditions. However, as the winter progressed precipitation amounts have been running well above normal. Over the past 90 days precipitation amounts were 150 to 200 percent of normal resulting in moderate to major flooding over the St. Joseph River and several river basins in southeastern Michgan.
The Crop Moisture Index values are 1 to 1.9 which is classified as abnormally wet. Soil moisture profiles across southern lower Michigan indicate that soil moisture profiles are full across the region.
At this writing snow depths were 2 inches or less inches over much of the St. Joseph River basin and 6 to 10 inches across the Kalamazoo. The lower portions of the Southeastern Michigan streams, including the Raisin River are mostly snow free. Snow water contents are variable. The Kalamazoo River basin averages around an inch of water and toward the St. Joseph River basin a half inch or less. Across southeastern Michigan snow water contents average around a half inch or less for areas around the Detroit area and southward, and 1 to 2 inches north of Detroit.
The general weather pattern over the area has been periods of very cold temperatures with precipitation in between. The latest series of storms occurred this past weekend and another system is expected this coming weekend. The colder temperatures have resulted numerous problems with ice formation and ice jams.
USGS flow statistics indicate that river levels are well above normal for this time of the year. River levels on the Kalamazoo River are 300 to 400 percent of normal and 300 percent of normal on the St. Joseph River. The Huron River at Ann Arbor, Michigan is running 350 percent of normal with the Raisin River running 300 to 500 percent of normal.
Eastern Wisconsin Streams: The MRCC charts indicate that Fall precipitation which encompasses last September through November was about 50 to 100 percent of normal. Then going into the Winter months December and January were wetter with values running from 150 to 200 percent of normal in December to about 125 to 175 percent above in January 2008.
Also from the MRCC, current soil moisture is indicated to be somewhat above normal ranging from 5 percent above in the north to about 20 percent above in the south around Milwaukee.
Current water equivalents of the snow pack are quite variable and range from about 2 to 5 inches. Most snow depths are in the 10 to 30 inch range but some are a little lower due to considerable settling and compacting that has occurred.
Frost depths range from about 6 to 18 inches. One might expect that the frost should be deeper due to the bitter cold that has occurred but the steady and building snow cover has helped to temper the amount and extent of the ground frost.
Cold weather from January into February has produced quite a bit of ice in area rivers and streams.
Minor flooding occurred in early January on the Root River and some localized flooding due to ice jams also occurred on the Sheboygan and other nearby rivers in southeast Wisconsin in late January.
USGS flow statistics indicate near normal conditions in the northern half including basically all of the Wolf and Fox Rivers and above normal in the south.
Western Lake Superior Streams: Fall precipitation, September through November began about 125 to 175 percent of normal then slowing down in November with 25 percent of normal precipitation. Streamflows during this same period were much above normal or greater than 90 percent in October according to the USGS. Streamflow condition returned to normal in November with the reduction in the normal amount of precipitation for the month.
Going into the Winter months, December precipitation was much above normal, 150 to 200 percent which caused streamflow conditions to return to much above normal flows or greater than 90 percent. In January precipitation was about 50 percent of normal but steamflow remained above normal for the month due to heavy precipitation in December.
According to the USGS, the rivers are flowing normal to above normal for this time of year.
Snow water equivalents of the snow pack are around 2 to 3 inches. Current snow depth ranges from 12 to 20 inches.
UPPER MISSISSIPPI RIVER DRAINAGE
SUMMARY OF PAST AND CURRENT CONDITIONS:
TRIBUTARIES OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER MAINSTEM
MINNESOTA TRIBUTARIES TO THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER:
Minnesota River Basin: The MRCC charts indicate that Fall precipitation which encompasses last September through November was about 125 to 175 percent of normal with the wettest area being in the upstream headwaters out west where heavy rains fell last August into September. Going into the Winter months December was variable throughout the basin running from 75 up to 150 percent of normal, while January 2008 was well below normal running in the range of only 5 to 50 percent.
The MRCC indicated current soil moisture to be high out west largely due to the rains that fell last August and September with values running from about 20 to 50 percent above the normal range in the western sections of the Minnesota River while soil moisture values in the east are just a little above normal, only about 5 to 15 percent above.
Current water equivalents of the snow pack range from only about 0.40 to 0.80 inches in the headwater areas of west-central Minnesota to about 1.5 to 2.5 inches in the lower portion of the basin in south-central Minnesota. Snow depths vary respectively from about 4 inches or less out west to about 6 to 12 inches east and south where considerable settling and compacting has occurred.
Frost depths range from about 3 feet or more out west to about 2 feet east.
Cold weather January into February has produced quite a bit of ice in area rivers and streams. There has been no recent significant river activity and most locations are currently well below flood levels.
USGS flow statistics are either not available or not applicable at this time due to the extensive river ice conditions occurring this season.
WISCONSIN TRIBUTARIES TO THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER:
Chippewa River Basin: The northern reaches of the Chippewa basin had been in drought most of 2007 but autumn precipitation of 125 to 150 percent above normal across the basin helped to alleviate that considerably.
Soil moisture conditions across the basin are near normal at both 12 and 72 inches. Streamflow is around normal for most of the basin except for the far north where it continues low at about 20 percent of what is expected for this time of year.
Snow depth is near normal across the basin but snow density remains very high. Snow depth across the basin ranges from 5 to 10 inches in the western half to 10 to 15 inches across the east. The water equivalent of that snow ranges between 3 and 4 inches in the north but drops to between 1.5 and 2.5 inches in the south.
Wisconsin River Basin: The upper portion of the basin is shown on the U.S. Drought Monitor as being in a "Abnormally Dry" condition while the rest is considered to be in a "Normal or Better" condition.
Rain fell across the central part of the basin just before Christmas and again in early January raising flow on the river in January to about 50 percent above the seasonal normal and the highest flow since June 2006. Current streamflow is about 110 to 150 percent of the seasonal norms on the smaller rivers and near normal at the lower end of the Wisconsin River. Storage in the headwaters reservoirs have been drawn down to their lowest level since 2001, currently about 30 percent of available storage.
Since the beginning of the year precipitation has been about 84 percent of normal. Snow cover in the basin is around 10 to 18 inches with a range of 7 to 25 inches of snow. Snow water across the basin generally averages 3.5 to 4 inches.
IOWA TRIBUTARIES TO THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER:
Cedar and Iowa River Basins: Currently the Cedar River is running at about 200 to 250 percent of normal while the Iowa River is running about 300 percent above normal above Coralville Dam and 200 percent of normal below the confluence with the Cedar River.
December precipitation was as little as 50 to 90 percent of normal over the northern part of the basin to as much as 200 to 300 percent of normal across much of the southeastern area. In January precipitation ranged from as little as 25 percent in the northern areas to near 100 percent in a small part of the central basin and 50 to 90 percent over the rest.
So far in February precipitation has ranged from about 75 percent in the north to 125 to 150 percent over most of the basin and 200 to 300 percent in the eastern area. All together the northern part of the basin is about 0.50 to 1 inches below normal precipitation and the eastern part of the basin is about 2 to 3 inches above normal.
Reported snow depths across the basin average about 10 to 12 inches but there was an early winter storm that left an 1 to 2 inches of ice over much of the lower basin. Snow water is currently being modeled at 2 to 3 plus inches.
Coralville reservoir is at its normal level for this time of the year.
Skunk, Maquoketa and Wapsipinicon River Basins: The Iowa Tributaries have been wetter than normal over the past six months with the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) indicating extremely wet in the northeast basins and very wet over most of the Skunk basin. Snow depths range from 4 to 8 inches above normal over the basins.
Soil moisture from MRCC shows 15 to 30 percent above normal soil moisture conditions as a result of the wet conditions. However the 72 inch soil moisture indicates only about 10 to 15 percent above normal.
Des Moines River Basin: There is currently 1 to 2 inches of water equivalent over the Des Moines River basin. Observers have recently reported over two inches in Emmetsburg and Rockwell City.
According to the USGS, the rivers are flowing above the 75th percentile in terms of flow, with the Raccoon River at Van Meter above the 98th percentile. Soils are considered "very moist" by the Palmer Drought Index.
The headwaters of the Des Moines River Basin have received over 200 percent of normal precipitation since December 1st 2007. The lower half of the river has received normal precipitation this winter.
Illinois River Basin: Soil conditions in September through November 2007 were normal throughout the basin with the exception of the Calumet and Kankakee River Basins where streamflow conditions were above normal due to the continued above normal precipitation pattern in much of the region. The remainder of the Illinois River basin began to increase its soil moisture conditions from the above normal precipitation pattern in December. This pattern pushed streamflow conditions into the above normal category as well.
Warm temperatures moved into the region at the beginning of January and melted most of the snow. In addition to warm temperatures, rain fell in much of Illinois with a heavier band falling in northern Illinois and northern Indiana which caused near record to record flooding on the Kankakee, Yellow, Iroquois and Vermilion Rivers.
A similar pattern occurred again at the beginning of February where warm temperatures moved into the region and melted most of the snow as heavy rains moved into the region. This weather system caused these same rivers to crest at very similar stages as they did in January. Once again as these rivers were at very high flows, more rain moved in over the weekend of February 16th and produced an additional inch of rain which resulted in these rivers rising to Moderate to Major flood levels. Due to the cold temperatures over the past couple of days many rivers and streams have either had their rises slow down or the rivers have stopped rising from the February 16th event and are now beginning to fall slowly. It is likely that the some of the runoff has not yet made it to the rivers and has frozen in place as reported by several NWS Coop Observers who were recently taking snow water equivalent measurements.
The mainstem Illinois River has been at flood stage for most of this year at many locations with Moderate flood levels pushing to near Major Flood levels at the lower end of the river specifically La Grange and Meredosia, Illinois.
Due to a long stretch of very cold temperatures in the area, ice jams are occurring on the Kankakee River in Illinois and Indiana and the Fox River at Dayton, Illinois. In addition, ice has increased at most locations during the past week as the temperatures remained well below freezing. In the middle of January, the Dresden Power Plant began the start-up of a warm water siphon. This was done to help break up some of the ice jams in the area of Wilmington on the Kankakee River before conditions worsened. There was major ice jam flooding in this area beginning at the end of January which lasted for about 2 weeks.
In general, snow water equivalents in the Fox and Des Plaines Rivers basins range between 1 and 2 inches.
Streamflow conditions in Illinois are generally greater than 90 percent or much above normal.
Rock River Basin: During the Summer and Fall of 2007 the Rock River Basin received 100 to 125 percent of normal precipitation. Most of this precipitation fell in August and caused the Rock River to rise from a baseflow of about 4 kcfs to a crest around 35 kcfs at Joslin by the end of the month.
This event set the stage for a winter full of ice jams in the basin. Several cold snaps resulted in significant river ice production and freeze-up ice jams at several locations along the Rock River. Some jams caused significant flooding.
This winter has seen 15 to 40 inches more snowfall than normal across the basin with the highest snowfall amounts of about 80 inches in the Wisconsin portion of the basin. As a result of midwinter thaws, much of the snow in the southern portion of the basin has melted already.
However, the snowpack in the northern portion of the basin remains largely intact. We have seen very little of that precipitation make it to the rivers. Snow water equivalents in southern Wisconsin range from 2 to 5 inches.
Kaskaskia and Big Muddy River Basins: A somewhat normal autumn has gradually turned into above normal conditions as far as rainfall and soil moisture are concerned. January precipitation for the Kaskaskia and Big Muddy Rivers was 150 percent of normal.
Currently flows are high on the Kaskaskia River due to repeated rainfall events and warm temperatures over the past couple of weeks. The Big Muddy Basin is very wet, with forecast points near flood stage this past week and large amounts of water releasing from area reservoirs.
MISSOURI TRIBUTARIES TO THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER
Fabius, Fox, Salt and Cuivre River Basins: A warm dry fall has turned into a cold wet winter in northeast Missouri. Precipitation has averaged as much as 150 percent or 3 inches above normal. There have been several snow events which is typical of most winters. However the snow events have melted within a few days after snowfall. Currently there is little or no snow cover.
While temperatures since October 1st averaged a little above normal, temperatures since mid January have been a little below normal, and during the last week as much as 10 degrees below normal. Ice formation has impacted the performance of some stream gages. USGS streamflows were rated in the normal to above normal range.
Meramec River River Basin: Fall was dry across the Meramec basin as only about 50 percent of the normal precipitation fell. The start of winter though has seen a wet December and January which was between 100 to 150 percent of normal precipitation has fallen. This excess precipitation has brought the Level 1 drought conditions of the fall back into the normal range by mid-winter.
Soil moisture conditions at both the 12 and 72 inch levels are about normal for this time of year. Streamflows across the basin average below normal for the winter, although with the abundance of early winter precipitation, there were spikes of above normal flow while snowmelt runoff was occurring.
There is little snow across the basin at this time.
MISSISSIPPI RIVER MAINSTEM :
Mississippi River from the Headwater Area to Red Wing MN: The Mississippi River basin upstream of St Cloud, Minnesota had been in a severe to extreme drought since last year. Precipitation from September to November was in the normal range, and for December in the normal range except for the headwaters. Currently most of the basin has moved into the Near Normal group. The exception being the headwaters which is in the Severe Drought group.
At the beginning of February, the Corps of Engineers reservoir locations report ice thickness ranged from 18 to 30 inches. Frost depth ranged 13 to 26 inches. Frost of 1 to 2 feet also is occurring in the lower part of the basin.
Water equivalents are in the 1.5 to 2 inch range for the headwaters with the remaining part of the basin in the 1 to 1.5 inch range.
Flows at St Cloud were about 50 percent of normal last Fall, up just a little from 2007 flows.
Mainstem river low flows continue to be a concern to navigation. The Mississippi River at St. Paul, Minnesota is curently modeled around 4000 cfs. The mean flow for February is 4700 cfs for the period of record, 1892 to 2006. The all time low flow for February is 1300 cfs in 1895, with the next lowest being 1400 cfs which occurred in 1937.
Mississippi River from Lake City, MN to Lock/Dam 10 at Guttenberg, IA: Stream flow in the tributaries of this reach of the Mississippi is classified as above normal for January 2008.
September to November precipitation over the area was normal except for the southeastern corner of Minnesota and northeastern Iowa which was below normal. While the December precipitation was normal for most of the Minnesota part of the basin and above normal for the far southeastern corner of Minnesota and northeastern corner of Iowa which was 150 to 200 percent of normal.
For most of the area, the Drought Monitor indicates Unusual Moist Spell with the Wisconsin area of the lower reach being in the Very Moist Spell category.
Frost depths currently range between 1 and 2 feet.
At the beginning of February, the Corps of Engineers reservoir locations ice thickness ranged from 7 to 18 inches.
Lower mainstem river flows have been a concern to navigation for a number of months. Currently the Mississippi River at Winona, MN flow is being modeled at about 12000 cfs. The mean flow for February for the current period of record is 15800 cfs. The all time low flow for February was 7900 cfs in 1977. The period of record is July 1928 to the present.
Mississippi River from Lock/Dam 11 at Dubuque IA to Dam 22 at Saverton MO: For the mainstem Mississippi River basin from Dubuque, Iowa down through Gregory Landing Missouri, the MRCC charts indicate that Fall precipitation, which encompasses last September through November was slightly above normal in the north but only 50 to 75 percent of normal inthe central and southern portions, generally from Clinton, Iowa downstream. Going into the Winter months December became considerably wetter with precipitation running 150 to 300 percent of normal. January 2008 was in the range of 100 to 150 percent of normal.
Also from the MRCC, current soil moisture is running 25 to 50 percent above the normal range for this time of year.
Current water equivalents of the snow pack range from around 4 inches in the northern stretch from Dubuque through Bellevue, Iowa then taper off to just an inch or less from Clinton on downstream. Snow depths vary respectively from 10 to 20 inches around Dubuque down to 4 inches or less from Davenport Iowa southward.
Cold weather for January into February has produced quite a bit of ice in area rivers and streams.
There has been no significant river activity on the Mississippi mainstem other than some ice action causing localized jams.
USGS flow statistics indicate slightly above normal conditions on the mainstem, but well above normal on several of the nearby tributaries in Iowa and Illinois.
Mississippi River from Louisiana MO to Chester IL: Currently the Mississippi River from L & D 20 through Chester, Illinois is above normal flow. Much of this has to do with the Illinois River and Missouri River running above normal flow while the upper Mississippi has been near normal flow. The local area for the Mississippi has been fairly wet. Precipitation for the last 90 days for much of Missouri has been 1 to 4 inches above normal except the northeast corner of Missouri. Areas near the Mississippi River on the Illinois side have averaged 2 to 6 inches above normal.
Drought conditions may still have some impact on the spring to summer outlook. The headwaters of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers are still considered abnormally dry. Also the high plains region for much of the upper to middle Missouri watershed is still abnormally dry with areas of severe drought due to the lack of snow pack along with the previous dry soil states.
Ice conditions in this region range between 1 to 7 inches.
Ice jam issues are still severe especially at L & D 22 and will continue to be an issue for some time.