Late January 2010 Hydrologic Outlook

Precipitation during the fall of 2009 was above the long term average across the Red River and Devils Lake Basin. The greatest precipitation departures have been across the southern Red River Valley. The Palmer Drought Index for long term hydrologic conditions indicate very moist conditions across the Red River Basin in October, November and December.

Two major snowstorms have occurred within the region so far this winter. The Christmas weekend storm of 2009 produced record snowfalls across portions of the region. Almost a month later, another storm system dropped significant rainfall and snow across the region. As a result, snow depths range from 8 to 14 inches across the northern Red River Valley to 14 to 20 inches across the southern Red River Valley. Similar snow depths exist in the Devils Lake Basin.

Snow water contents generally range from 4 to 5 inches across portions of the southern Red River Valley and generally 2 to 4 inches elsewhere. These conditions are comparable to the mid winter values of 2009.

Going into the fall and early winter freeze up stream flows were very high. USGS average streamflows were greater than the 90th percentile for November and December 2009 for both Fargo and East Grand Forks.

During the period September 2009 through January 2010, temperatures have generally ranged from 1 to 2 degrees above the long term normal the past 4 months. This slightly above normal trend has come from frequent and fairly extreme temperature swings the past few months. Precipitation has generally been above normal across the area during this period.

The southern Red River Basin was wetter than normal in the fall of 2009, but below the record levels set in 2008. River base flows remain well above normal in late January 2010.

Between 4 and 6 inches of liquid equivalent precipitation has fallen across southeastern North Dakota and western Minnesota. This represents 200 to 300 percent of normal precipitation. The Devils Lake Basin has also seen above normal precipitation over the past 4 months, where 3 to 4 inches of precipitation have occurred. This represents totals between 150 and 200 percent of normal. Frost depths are generally down to 18 to 24 inches, just slightly less than at the same time last year.

What has been most unusual about this winter is the relatively stormy pattern, despite the presence of a moderate El Niño in the Pacific. When looking at past years with similar weather and climate conditions, the spring months of March, April and may have been seasonally milder and wetter than normal. The majority of the anomalous precipitation has historically fallen across the southern Red River Valley.

Based on the recent behavior of the atmosphere and the expected overall climate conditions, the late winter into early spring 2010 is projected to remain milder than normal in terms of temperature, with continued above normal precipitation. Historical analysis and recent climate trends suggest that the southern Red River Valley will be more likely to experience above normal precipitation for the remainder of the period.

Therefore, the conditions are developing for significant spring flooding. The upcoming spring thaw cycle, as well as what precipitation falls before and during the melt, will be critical
factors in the actual flood levels.

Below is a table with the January 29th run of the AHPS for the Red River Valley.

                                                       DEPARTURE
  OUTLOOK            FLOOD            PERCENT         FROM NORMAL
  LOCATION           STAGES*     MINOR    MOD  MAJOR     AT FS**
  --------          --------     -----    ---  -----   ----------
MAINSTEM RED RIVER...
  WAHPETON, ND      10/12/14       90%    45%    26%     +63%
  FARGO, ND         18/25/30      >98%    95%    86%      N/A
  HALSTAD, MN       26/32/40       96%    83%    11%     +73%
  GRAND FORKS, ND   28/40/46      >98%    95%    45%      N/A
  OSLO, MN          26/30/36      >98%   >98%    45%      N/A
  DRAYTON, ND       32/38/42      >98%    95%    63%      N/A
  PEMBINA, ND       42/47/52      >98%    90%    41%      N/A
 
MINNESOTA TRIBUTARIES...
  SABIN             12/15/19      >98%    85%    21%      N/A
  HAWLEY             7/9/11       >98%    68%    21%      N/A
  DILWORTH          12/20/26      >98%    91%    13%      N/A
  TWIN VALLEY       10/12/14       24%    11%     4%     + 7%
  HENDRUM           20/28/32      >98%    83%    27%      N/A
  CLIMAX            20/25/30       91%    49%    16%     +64%
  SHELLY            14/20/23       88%    57%     6%     +66%
  HIGH LANDING     12/12.5/13       9%     8%     4%      N-N
  CROOKSTON         15/23/25       82%     9%     4%     +36%
  ABOVE WARREN      67/71/75        9%     1%     1%      N-N
  ALVARADO        106/108/110      21%     4%     1%      N-N
  HALLOCK         802/806/810      96%    57%     6%     +39%
  ROSEAU            16/18/19       16%     6%     4%      N-N
 
NORTH DAKOTA TRIBUTARIES...
  ABERCROMBIE       10/12/18      >98%   >98%    93%      N/A
  VALLEY CITY       15/16/17       44%    42%    27%     +37%
  LISBON            15/17/19       95%    88%    77%     +86%
  KINDRED           16/20/22      >98%    95%    <1%      N/A
  HARWOOD         884/886/891     >98%    95%    95%      N/A
  WEST FARGO        18/20/21       96%    96%    85%     +76%
  ENDERLIN         9.5/12/14       93%    18%     9%     +59%
  MAPLETON        905/908/910      95%    86%    23%     +64%
  HILLSBORO         10/13/16       67%    50%    14%     +53%
  MINTO              6/8/11        86%    41%    <1%     +80%
  GRAFTON         12/13.5/14.5     91%    82%    68%     +68%
  WALHALLA          11/16/18       41%    <1%    <1%     +25%
  NECHE            18/19/21.5      42%    31%    11%     +25%
 
*  MINOR/MODERATE/MAJOR FLOOD STAGE
** THIS MONTHS CHANCE OF EXCEEDING MINOR FLOOD STAGE COMPARED TO
   THE CHANCE FOR NORMAL CONDITIONS...
     +   % ABOVE NOMRAL
     -   % BELOW NORMAL
     N-N NEAR NORMAL
     N/A NOT AVAILABLE
     FS  FLOOD STAGE...MINOR

 

Below is the probablistic outlook for the Devils Lake Basin.

CREEL BAY:
90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
1451.4 1451.7 1451.9 1452.0 1452.1 1452.2 1452.7 1452.9 1453.5

STUMP LAKE:
90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
1451.4 1451.7 1451.9 1452.0 1452.1 1452.2 1452.7 1452.9 1453.5

 Below is a graphic of the snow water content in late January 2009 (top) versus snow water content in late January 2010 (bottom). The most significant difference is in the slightly larger area of higher snow water content in far southeast North Dakota.

Below is graphic of the cumulative precipitation from September 2009 through January 2010 versus September 2008 through January 2009. While still quite a bit above normal, note how the cumulative precipitation total is below the previous years record pace.

For additional information contact the Grand Forks NWS at 701.772.0720

 



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