Red River and Devils Lake Hydrologic Outlook

Below are the updated Flood Outlooks for the Red River Valley and Devils Lake Basin, issued January 26 2012. The extremely dry and warm fall has resulted in moderate to severe drought conditions across the region. As a result, the risk for any snow-melt induced spring flooding has been greatly diminished from the past several years. When compared to the spring outlooks issued around this time in 2011, there is a much reduced risk

Generally speaking there is less than a 50 percent chance of rivers reaching flood stage at most of the forecast points along the main stem Red or its tributaries. Exceptions include a 64% chance that the Red River in Fargo will reach 18 feet, a 51% chance that the Buffalo River at Dilworth will reach flood stage. This compares to last year when there was a 95% chance Red at Fargo would reach major flood stage. Below is a table comparing the probability of flooding at points along the main stem Red River this year, compared to 2011.

The table above lists the difference in percent (right) between late January 2012 AHPS probabilities (left) and the late January 2011 probabilities (middle table). For example, there is an 88% lower risk of major flooding due to snow-melt at this time in Wahpeton compared with 2011.

Due to the dry and warm fall moderate drought conditions have developed throughout the Red River Valley. Even the Devils Lake Basin is now considered abnormally dry.These conditions are expected to persist into the spring of 2012, which is in large part why the flood outlook has changed from last year. In addition to the lack of snowfall this winter season, the Climate Prediction Center outlook through April 2012 suggests there is a reduced risk of significant rain or snow the next few months. Therefore, there is a higher than normal likelihood that drought conditions will linger into the spring planting season.

Although the risk for significant flooding has been greatly reduced, residents of the Red River Valley region need to pay attention to future outlooks and forecasts. The outlooks below are based on the current snow pack, as well as the presumption that we will experience normal precipitation and temperature patterns the next few months. Although the climate outlooks do not indicate an enhanced risk of above normal precipitation, one ill-timed heavy rain event near the normal snow-melt time would dramatically increase the risk of flooding.

How uncommon is this dry weather? From a historical viewpoint dry weather and a lack of snow is a relatively infrequent occurrence; which means it does occur, and in fact occurred in the recent past.  Due to the recent string of excessively wet years many folks forget that similar conditions existed just 5 winters ago. Below are images of the Snow Water Content from January 26th 2007 compared with January 26th 2012. The greenish shades represent where there was little or no snow.

Snow Water Content from 2012 compared with 2007

Images courtesy of the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center in Chanhassen MN
The January 26th 2012 AHPS Outlooks follow.

...ADVANCED HYDROLOGIC PREDICTION SERVICES (AHPS) ENABLE THE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TO PROVIDE LONG-RANGE PROBABILISTIC
RIVER OUTLOOKS...

...RED RIVER BASIN OUTLOOK FOR RIVER FLOOD POTENTIAL...

THIS HYDROLOGIC OUTLOOK COVERS A PERIOD FROM THE END OF JANUARY TO
THE END OF APRIL.
THE RISK OF SIGNIFICANT SPRING FLOODING ON THE RED RIVER OF THE NORTH
AND ITS MINNESOTA AND NORTH DAKOTA TRIBUTARIES HAS LESSENED A BIT FROM
DECEMBERS OUTLOOK DUE TO THE BELOW NORMAL PRECIPITATION THROUGH JANUARY
TO DATE. HOWEVER, THERE IS STILL A GOOD CHANCE (GREATER THAN 50%) OF
MINOR FLOODING (ABOVE 18 FEET) AT FARGO/MOORHEAD AND AT DILWORTH (ABOVE
12 FEET) ON THE BUFFALO RIVER IN MINNESOTA. THERE IS A FAIR CHANCE
(ABOVE 33%) OF MODERATE FLOODING (30 FEET) AT OSLO, MINNESOTA ON THE
MAINSTEM RED... AND OF MINOR FLOODING AT GRAND FORKS (28 FEET)...SABIN
(12 FEET) AND HAWLEY (7 FEET) ON THE BUFFALO RIVER IN MINNESOTA...AND
LASTLY AT ABERCROMBIE (10 FEET) ON THE WESTERN WILD RICE RIVER IN NORTH
DAKOTA.

ALL OTHER FORECAST POINTS IN THE RED RIVER BASIN ARE AT A LESS THAN 33%
CHANCE OF REACHING FLOOD STAGE THIS SPRING BASED ON THIS LATEST LONG
RANGE OUTLOOK. ALL LOCAL STREAMS AND RIVERS ARE SUBJECT TO RAPID RISES
SHOULD HEAVY RAINFALL OCCUR ON THE SHALLOW SNOWPACK OR FROZEN SOILS.

THERE ARE STILL A NUMBER OF WEATHER AND CLIMATE FACTORS THAT WILL
DEVELOP OVER THE REST OF THE WINTER AND EARLY SPRING THAT WILL COME
INTO PLAY TO CHANGE LATER SPRING FLOOD OUTLOOKS. THESE INCLUDE:

* HOW SNOW PACK BUILDS UP IN THE BASIN BEFORE THE SPRING THAW.
* HOW MUCH WATER IS IN THE SNOW PACK AS WE GO INTO THE THAW.
* HOW FAST THE SNOW MELTS DURING THE THAW.
* HOW HIGH THE RIVERS ARE AT THE START OF THAW.
* SOIL CONDITIONS AT THE TIME OF THAW...INCLUDING SOIL MOISTURE
AND FROST DEPTH..
* WHETHER THERE WILL BE SIGNIFICANT PRECIPITATION (SNOW OR RAIN)
DURING THE THAW OR AT THE TIME OF PEAK FLOOD ON THE RED RIVER.

THE DRY FALL AND EARLY WINTER ALLOWED BASE FLOWS AND TOP SOIL MOISTURE
LEVELS TO LOWER TO MORE SEASONAL NORMALS. ALTHOUGH THE TOP SOIL IS
RELATIVELY DRY AND SOIL MOISTURE IS DOWN FROM RECENT PRIOR YEARS,
SUFFICIENT MOISTURE REMAINS FOR FROST TO FORM. SOILS ARE DRIER ON THE
HIGHER TERRAIN IN EASTERN OTTER TAIL AND BECKER COUNTIES WITH HIGHER
SOIL MOISTURE VALUES IN RANSOM AND SARGENT COUNTIES.

THE NON-TYPICAL LA NINA WINTER CONTINUES WITH A MINIMAL SNOWPACK
DEPTH ACROSS THE BASIN, ALLOWING FROST DEPTHS TO PENETRATE DEEPER
THAN NORMAL. CURRENTLY FROST DEPTHS RANGE FROM 1.5 TO 2.5 FEET.

THE COMBINATION OF RECORD WARMTH AND MINIMAL PRECIPITATION DURING
THE 2011 FALL AND EARLY 2012 WINTER HAS RESULTED IN MODERATE TO
SEVERE DROUGHT THROUGHOUT MUCH OF THE RED RIVER BASIN. THE DRIEST
SOIL CONDITIONS EXIST ON THE MINNESOTA SIDE OF THE RED RIVER...WITH
THE UPPER DEVILS LAKE BASIN THE MOST MOIST. THE NATIONAL DROUGHT
MITIGATION CENTER EXPECTS DROUGHT CONDITIONS TO PERSIST INTO APRIL
OF 2012.

THE CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER CLIMATE OUTLOOK FOR THE REST OF THE WINTER
AND EARLY SPRING INDICATE NEAR NORMAL TEMPERATURES AND PRECIPITATION
FROM NOW THROUGH APRIL.

THE NEXT TWO HYDROLOGIC OUTLOOKS FOR THE SPRING WILL BE ISSUED ON:

* THURSDAY 16 FEBRUARY 2012
* THURSDAY 1 MARCH 2012

...LONG-RANGE PROBABILISTIC RIVER OUTLOOK BY FLOOD CATEGORY...

THE TABLE BELOW GIVES THE CHANCES FOR EXCEEDING MINOR...MODERATE...
AND MAJOR FLOOD STAGES AT THE RIVER LOCATIONS LISTED DURING THE
VALID PERIOD INDICATED.

RED RIVER BASIN
LONG-RANGE PROBABILISTIC OUTLOOK
VALID JANUARY 29, 2012 - APRIL 30, 2012

DEPARTURE
OUTLOOK FLOOD PERCENT FROM NORMAL
LOCATION STAGES* MINOR MOD MAJOR AT FS**
-------- -------- ----- --- ----- ----------
MAINSTEM RED RIVER...
WAHPETON, ND 10/12/14 25% 6% 3% N-N
FARGO, ND 18/25/30 64% 12% 6% + 6%
HALSTAD, MN 26/32/37.5 12% 4% 1% -12%
GRAND FORKS, ND 28/40/46 38% 9% 1% -13%
OSLO, MN 26/30/36 46% 33% 3% - 9%
DRAYTON, ND 32/38/42 30% 14% 1% -16%
PEMBINA, ND 39/44/49 30% 21% 3% -17%

MINNESOTA TRIBUTARIES...
SABIN 12/15/19 35% 1% <1% -26%
HAWLEY 7/9/11 33% 3% 1% -17%
DILWORTH 12/20/26 51% 3% <1% -15%
TWIN VALLEY 10/12/14 <1% <1% <1% N/A
HENDRUM 20/28/32 25% 3% 1% -15%
SHELLY 14/20/23 8% <1% <1% -13%
CLIMAX 20/25/30 3% 1% 1% -15%
HIGH LANDING 12/12.5/13 <1% <1% <1% N/A
CROOKSTON 15/23/25 21% 1% <1% -27%
ABOVE WARREN 67/71/75 1% <1% <1% N-N
ALVARADO 106/108/110 6% 3% 1% -18%
HALLOCK 802/806/810 30% 4% <1% -27%
ROSEAU 16/18/19 12% 9% 4% - 7%

NORTH DAKOTA TRIBUTARIES...
ABERCROMBIE 10/12/18 33% 24% 4% N-N
VALLEY CITY 15/16/17 4% 4% 1% N-N
LISBON 15/17/19 9% 4% 3% + 6%
KINDRED 16/19/20.5 12% 9% 6% N-N
HARWOOD 884/886/891 16% 11% 9% -10%
WEST FARGO 18/20/21 14% 9% 4% N-N
ENDERLIN 9.5/12/14 9% 1% <1% N-N
MAPLETON 905/908/910 12% 4% 1% -12%
HILLSBORO 10/13/16 4% 4% 1% - 8%
MINTO 6/8/11 27% 11% <1% N-N
GRAFTON 12/13.5/14.5 12% 8% 8% N-N
WALHALLA 11/16/18 8% <1% <1% - 8%
NECHE 18/19/21.5 12% 12% 8% -12%

* MINOR/MODERATE/MAJOR FLOOD STAGE
** THIS MONTHS CHANCE OF EXCEEDING MINOR FLOOD STAGE COMPARED TO
THE CHANCE FOR NORMAL CONDITIONS...
+ % ABOVE NORMAL
- % BELOW NORMAL
N-N NEAR NORMAL
N/A NOT AVAILABLE
FS FLOOD STAGE...MINOR

...LONG-RANGE PROBABILISTIC OUTLOOK BY RIVER STAGE...

RED RIVER BASIN
LONG-RANGE PROBABILISTIC OUTLOOK
VALID JANUARY 29, 2012 - APRIL 30, 2012

IN THE TABLE BELOW, THE 90 THROUGH 10 PERCENT COLUMNS GIVE THE CHANCE
THAT THE RIVER AT A CERTAIN LOCATION WILL RISE ABOVE THE STAGES
INDICATED BY THE VALUES IN THE ROW FOR THAT LOCATION ANYTIME DURING
THE NEXT 90 DAYS.

EXAMPLE: THE RED RIVER AT WAHPETON HAS A FLOOD STAGE OF 10 FEET.
IN THE NEXT 90 DAYS THERE IS A 50 PERCENT CHANCE THAT THE RED RIVER
AT WAHPETON WILL RISE ABOVE 9.3 FEET AND ONLY A 10 PERCENT CHANCE
THAT IT WILL RISE ABOVE 11.9 FEET.

CHANCE OF EXCEEDING STAGES AT MAINSTEM RED RIVER LOCATIONS
VALID 1/29/2012 - 4/30/2012

LOCATION 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%
-------- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
WAHPETON ND 7.9 8.1 8.7 8.8 9.3 9.6 9.9 10.1 11.9
FARGO ND 16.6 17.1 17.6 18.4 19.1 20.0 21.7 22.9 27.6
HALSTAD MN 11.1 13.3 14.6 15.9 18.3 19.1 20.2 23.4 27.4
GRAND FORKS 19.5 20.3 22.0 23.0 25.8 27.9 30.7 36.1 40.4
OSLO MN 15.9 17.7 20.9 22.5 25.7 28.0 30.8 33.7 34.5
DRAYTON ND 18.2 20.1 23.3 25.5 27.2 29.6 32.5 37.1 39.2
PEMBINA ND 23.1 25.8 28.6 31.7 33.3 36.1 40.2 44.2 47.1

CHANCE OF EXCEEDING STAGES AT MINNESOTA TRIBUTARY LOCATIONS
VALID 1/29/2012 - 4/30/2012

LOCATION 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%
-------- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
SO FORK BUFFALO RIVER...
SABIN 8.6 9.6 10.1 10.7 11.2 11.7 12.3 12.8 13.8
BUFFALO RIVER...
HAWLEY 4.7 5.2 5.5 5.9 6.3 6.8 7.4 7.9 8.4
DILWORTH 8.1 9.1 10.2 11.2 12.2 12.8 14.2 15.3 17.5
WILD RICE RIVER...
TWIN VALLEY 3.7 4.0 4.5 4.9 5.2 5.5 6.1 6.4 7.1
HENDRUM 9.1 11.9 14.6 15.8 16.8 18.2 19.4 22.0 24.5
MARSH RIVER...
SHELLY 5.2 5.7 6.2 6.5 7.1 8.2 9.3 9.7 10.7
SAND HILL RIVER...
CLIMAX 7.4 7.7 8.0 8.6 10.1 10.9 11.5 11.9 15.8
RED LAKE RIVER...
HIGHLANDING 6.6 7.1 7.7 8.6 9.0 9.5 9.7 9.9 10.8
CROOKSTON 9.7 10.1 10.3 10.7 11.6 12.5 13.1 15.6 19.0
SNAKE RIVER...
ABV WARREN 62.3 62.3 62.7 62.8 63.0 63.2 63.5 64.0 64.5
ALVARADO 98.8 99.0 99.5 100.3 100.7 101.2 101.9 102.9 105.4
TWO RIVERS RIVER...
HALLOCK 795.5 796.2 796.7 797.4 798.3 800.0 802.2 803.3 805.5
ROSEAU RIVER...
ROSEAU 9.3 9.6 10.7 11.3 11.6 11.9 12.4 13.8 17.8

CHANCE OF EXCEEDING STAGES AT NORTH DAKOTA TRIBUTARY LOCATIONS
VALID 1/29/2012 - 4/30/2012

LOCATION 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%
-------- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
WILD RICE RIVER...
ABERCROMBIE 3.2 4.3 5.0 5.9 7.0 7.9 10.8 13.8 16.8
SHEYENNE RIVER...
VALLEY CITY 4.0 4.3 4.6 5.3 6.4 8.1 8.8 10.0 12.5
LISBON 3.8 4.2 4.9 6.0 7.1 8.4 9.5 10.7 15.1
KINDRED 4.5 5.4 6.6 7.8 9.8 10.6 11.8 14.1 19.2
HARWOOD 871.3 873.1 874.0 875.5 876.8 878.0 879.7 881.7 887.7
WEST FARGO 10.8 11.8 12.1 12.9 14.4 14.5 15.4 16.9 20.9
MAPLE RIVER...
ENDERLIN 5.1 5.8 6.0 6.6 7.4 7.7 8.2 8.6 9.6
MAPLETON 897.4 898.0 898.4 899.9 900.6 901.7 902.4 903.7 906.5
GOOSE RIVER...
HILLSBORO 2.5 3.2 3.5 3.8 4.2 4.6 4.8 6.0 8.2
FOREST RIVER...
MINTO 2.9 3.3 3.7 4.2 4.7 5.4 5.7 6.6 8.4
PARK RIVER...
GRAFTON 8.1 8.3 8.5 8.6 8.8 9.1 9.6 10.3 13.3
PEMBINA RIVER...
WALHALLA 3.9 4.3 4.7 4.9 5.6 6.2 7.4 8.4 10.7
NECHE 6.6 7.4 8.2 9.1 10.0 11.2 14.4 16.3 19.5
                         DEVILS AND STUMP LAKES
LONG-RANGE PROBABILISTIC OUTLOOK

VALID JANUARY 26, 2012 - SEPTEMBER 30, 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IS PROVIDING MONTHLY UPDATES OF THE
LONG-RANGE OUTLOOK FOR DEVILS AND STUMP LAKES. THESE...AND THEIR
ASSOCIATED WEB GRAPHICS...ARE VALID FOR THE PERIOD OF
JANUARY 2012 THROUGH SEPTEMBER 2012.

CHANCES OF DEVILS AND STUMP LAKES RISING ABOVE
THE GIVEN LAKE LEVELS

VALID 1/26/2012 - 9/30/2012
CREEL BAY:
90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
1453.5 1453.6 1453.7 1453.8 1453.9 1454.0 1454.1 1454.4 1454.9

STUMP LAKE:
90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
1453.5 1453.6 1453.7 1453.8 1453.9 1454.0 1454.1 1454.4 1454.9

THE CURRENT HEIGHT OF DEVILS LAKE AT CREEL BAY IS 1453.37 FEET
THE CURRENT HEIGHT OF STUMP LAKE NEAR LAKOTA IS 1453.38 FEET

THE MOST RECENT USGS PROVISIONAL RECORD DAILY AVERAGE HEIGHT FOR
DEVILS LAKE AT THE CREEL BAY GAGE:
...1454.30 FEET ON JUNE 27 OF 2011
PREVIOUS RECORDS:
...1452.05 FEET ON JUNE 27 OF 2010
...1450.93 FEET ON JUNE 27 OF 2009
...1449.20 FEET ON MAY 9 OF 2006
...1449.18 FEET ON JUNE 17 OF 2004
...1449.17 FEET ON AUGUST 2 OF 2005

FOR MORE HIGH WATER MARKS...SEE THE USGS FLOOD TRACKING CHARTS AT:

HTTP://ND.WATER.USGS.GOV/FLOODTRACKING

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IS NOW INCLUDING CHANCES THAT
DEVILS AND STUMP LAKES WILL FALL BELOW LEVELS GIVEN IN THE
PROBABILITY OF NON-EXCEEDANCE TABLE BELOW:

CHANCES OF DEVILS AND STUMP LAKES FALLING BELOW
THE GIVEN LAKE LEVELS

VALID 1/26/2012 - 9/30/2012
CREEL BAY:
90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
1453.3 1453.3 1452.9 1452.8 1452.7 1452.5 1452.3 1452.2 1452.0

STUMP LAKE:
90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
1453.3 1453.3 1452.9 1452.8 1452.7 1452.5 1452.3 1452.2 1452.0

THE OUTLOOK PRODUCTION PROCESS...

THIS LONG RANGE PROBABILISTIC OUTLOOK IS BASED ON A SERIES OF PEAK
RIVER LEVELS TAKEN FROM THE FORECAST RESULTS OF THE NWS ENSEMBLE
STREAMFLOW MODEL (ESF). THE MODEL IS RUN FOR MULTIPLE SCENARIOS
USING CURRENT RIVER...SNOW AND SOIL CONDITIONS COMBINED WITH ABOUT
50 YEARS OF PAST PRECIPITATION AND TEMPERATURE CONDITIONS
EXPERIENCED DURING THE OUTLOOK PERIOD...AND COMPARED AGAINST CURRENT
SPRING TEMPERATURE AND PRECIPITATION OUTLOOKS.

PROVIDING A RANGE OF RIVER LEVEL PROBABILITIES BASED ON CURRENT
CONDITIONS AND PAST SPRING WEATHER...THE OUTLOOK GIVES EXPECTED
AMOUNTS OF RISK WHICH CAN THEN HELP WITH LONG RANGE FLOOD PLANNING
AND RESPONSE READINESS. THIS OUTLOOK IS A PART OF NOAA/S NATIONAL
WEATHER SERVICE/S AHPS (ADVANCED HYDROLOGIC PREDICTION SERVICES).

FORECASTERS PRODUCE MULTIPLE SCENARIO HYDROGRAPHS USING THE ESF
MODEL INITIALIZED WITH RECENT RAIN/SNOW AND SOIL MOISTURE CONDITIONS
IN THE RED RIVER BASIN AND APPLYING SETS OF PAST PRECIPITATION AND
TEMPERATURES FOR THE YEARS 1949 THROUGH 2009 AND FOR THE VALID
PERIOD OF THE OUTLOOK.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION SOURCES...

THE AHPS LONG RANGE PROBABILISTIC OUTLOOKS ARE USUALLY ISSUED
MONTHLY ON THE FRIDAY OF THE WEEK FOLLOWING THE FIRST THURSDAY
AFTER THE 15TH OF THE MONTH...USUALLY THE THIRD OR FOURTH WEEK
OF THE MONTH. HOWEVER...SPRING FLOOD AND WATER RESOURCES OUTLOOKS
ARE ISSUED SEVERAL TIMES DURING THE CRITICAL SPRING MELT PERIOD...
USUALLY FROM EARLY MARCH TO EARLY APRIL...DEPENDING ON CONDITIONS.

THIS OUTLOOK IS ALSO PRESENTED AS GRAPHS OF THE PROBABILITY OF STAGE
EXCEEDANCE FOR THE FULL PERIOD AND FOR WEEKLY INTERVALS DURING THE
PERIOD. THESE GRAPHS AND EXPLANATIONS THAT HELP INTERPRETING THEM
SHOULD BE AVAILABLE BY 9 AM FRIDAY FROM THE NWS GRAND FORKS AHPS WEB
PAGE ON THE INTERNET AT:

WWW.WEATHER.GOV/GRANDFORKS

THEN CLICK ON THE "RIVERS AND LAKES AHPS" LINK IN THE LEFT MENU.

CURRENT RIVER CONDITIONS FOR ALL RIVER FORECAST POINTS IN THE RED
RIVER OF THE NORTH AND DEVILS/STUMP LAKE CONDITIONS ARE ALSO
AVAILABLE ON OUR WEB SITE...AS WELL AS THE 7-DAY FORECASTS WHEN
THE RIVER AT THE FORECAST POINT IS IN OR NEAR FLOOD.

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS...CONTACT THE NWS AT 701-772-0720.


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