Category Archives: rivers

Record Runoff into the Missouri Basin

Record Runoff into the Missouri Basin : Image of the Day.

Record Runoff into the Missouri Basin

acquired May 1 – 31, 2011
Color bar for Record Runoff into the Missouri Basin

As floods along the Mississippi River began to recede, waters rose along the Missouri River. Extending across 10 U.S. states, the Missouri drains nearly one-sixth of the area of the United States. In June 2011, above Sioux City, Iowa, the Missouri River Basin experienced the highest runoff for any single month since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began keeping detailed records in 1898.

Multiple factors contributed to the heavy runoff into the Missouri River Basin, the USACE explained, including heavy snowpack on the plains, near-record snowpack in the western U.S. mountains, and rainfall. This color-coded map shows rainfall anomalies for May 2011, compared to the 1998–2010 average. Below-average percentages are brown, and above-average percentages are blue. Rivers are thin blue lines.

Blue dominates most of the western United States in this color-coded map, testifying to the unusually high rainfall in May 2011. The USACE characterized the rainfall into the upper Missouri River Basin in mid- to late May as a critical factor in subsequent runoff. In May 2011, eastern Montana received 300 to 400 percent of normal rainfall, with some locations receiving more than a year’s average rainfall in just two weeks. Parts of North and South Dakota and Wyoming received more than 200 percent of normal rainfall. In some places, heavy rain continued into June.

By June 2011, the heavy rain had translated into heavy runoff. That month, the USACE reported, runoff into the Missouri River Basin above Sioux City totaled 13.8 million acre feet. (An acre foot is the amount of water required to cover one acre with one foot of water.) It was enough water, the USACE explained, to fill Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska, every five minutes throughout the month of June.

The previous record monthly runoff for the Missouri River Basin above Sioux City was set in April 1952, at 13.2 million acre feet. In 2011, the combined runoff for May and June was 24.3 million acre feet, just below the normal annual runoff total of 24.8 million acre feet.

Not all of the western United States was soggy in May 2011. In this image, a brown patch of below-average rainfall extends from southern Colorado and Kansas into New Mexico and Texas. This region experienced deepening drought as the summer of 2011 progressed.

This image is based on data from the Multisatellite Precipitation Analysis produced at Goddard Space Flight Center, which estimates rainfall by combining measurements from many satellites and calibrating them using rainfall measurements from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite.

  1. References

  2. National Weather Service. (2011, July 22). Missouri Basin, Pleasant Hill. Accessed July 22, 2011.
  3. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (2011, July 11). Corps: June 2011 was highest single month of runoff into Missouri River basin.(PDF file) Accessed July 22, 2011.
  4. U.S. Drought Monitor. (2011, July 14). Conditions for July 12, 2011. (PDF file) University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Accessed July 22, 2011.
  5. U.S. Geological Survey. (2009, September 8). Missouri River. Accessed July 22, 2011.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using near-real-time data provided courtesy of TRMM Science Data and Information System at Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Michon Scott.


Thailand: Super-canal may prevent floods

Thailand: Super-canal may prevent floods – CNN.

Thai authorities are considering the construction of a super-express waterway through Bangkok to prevent future floods similar to the one that has crippled the Thai capital and brought manufacturing in other parts of the country to a standstill.

A team of disaster experts from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok is now investigating permanent solutions to the disaster that has left hundreds dead.

“One of the urgent solutions is a super-express floodway,” Thanawat Jarupongsakul, from the university’s Unit for Disaster and Land Information Studies, told the Bangkok Post.


Under the plan, existing natural canals — some of them more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) long — would be linked in a 200-km “super-highway” that would divert the course of floodwaters from the north.

The super-canal would hold 1.6 billion cubic meters of water and drain run-off at a rate of 6,000 cubic meters per second — the equivalent of two and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools a second.

“This idea is much cheaper than digging a new river as a floodway,” Thanawat said.

He said the proposed scheme would involve the construction of a kilometer-wide exclusion zone next to the floodway to prevent properties from being inundated, and a raised highway on both side of the canal.

The super-express floodway would then drain upstream run-off directly into the sea.

The university team is also looking at other flood-prevention measures such as a better early-warning system, improved water resource management, a flood tax, the use of a flood-risk map for urban development and groundwater-use controls.

“Now, the government must stop [trying to] solve flood problems with political methods,” Thanawat told the Bangkok Post. He said poor water management rather than excess rain had caused this year’s severe flooding, adding that natural swamps in the west of Thailand’s Central Plains, which once absorbed water flow, had been developed into industrial and residential areas, blocking the natural floodway.

While giant flood tunnels in the Bangkok metropolitan area could drain floodwater from the city, they could not cope with a massive inundation from the north.

“If there is no step forward, foreign investors will eventually disappear from the country and the next generation will be still worried whether flooding will happen or not,” he said.

Climate Change Evaporates Part of China's Hydropower

Climate Change Evaporates Part of China’s Hydropower: Scientific American.

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WATER FALL: Unusually low water levels in many Chinese rivers has contributed to a big drop in hydropower production. Image: Tomasz Dunn/Flickr

SHANGHAI — China has set ambitious goals for itself to develop hydropower to help mitigate the risks of climate change, but increasing extreme weather events likely rooted in climate change are now sabotaging the goals’ foundations.

The latest blow came in September, when many major rivers across China ran into an unusual shrinkage, with less than 20 percent water remaining at some stretches. As a result, the nation’s hydroelectric generation dropped by almost a quarter compared with last year. There has been an ever-widening decrease in power each month since July, according to a recent government statement.

As water stocks in key hydro stations decline, the regular dry season is approaching. The resulting stress on hydroelectric generation will last into next year, the statement said.

The Chinese government has yet to explain why the water flows slumped. But experts blamed it on climate change, warning of more future droughts in areas traditionally blessed with water.

If this expectation comes true, it will hamper China’s hydropower sector, which contributes most of the country’s carbon-free electricity. It will also threaten a national strategy in transmitting electricity from resource-rich western China to feed the country’s power-hungry manufacturing sector, most of which is in the east.

For Guangdong province, located on China’s east coast, this threat has already turned into a daily reality. Since its western neighbors this year failed to send as much electricity as usual, the manufacturing hub, with a capacity to produce more than half of the world’s desktops and toys, is forced to conserve electricity.

Turbines left high and dry
China Southern Power Grid, the region’s electricity distributor, attributed the energy shortage partly to the evaporation of hydropower.

As of July, on average, not even half of its installed hydropower capacity found water to turn turbines, the company’s statistics show. And several major hydro stations, built as part of the west-to-east electricity transmission plan, failed to do their jobs.

Goupitan, the largest hydroelectric generator in Guizhou province, reportedly produced only 10 percent of its normal output per day, due to shrinking water flows. And in another hydro station called Longtan, located in the Guangxi region, this year’s missing rain dropped its reservoir’s water level to a point dozens of meters lower than previous years.

“This will definitely negatively affect our hydroelectric production from now to next summer,” said Li Yanguang, who is in charge of public relations in the power station. Asked whether next summer — a regular rainy season — could make the situation better, Li answered in a cautious tone.

“This totally depends on weather,” he said. “We can’t predict that.”

Hydro growth plan sticks despite falling power output
But Lin Boqiang, one of China’s leading energy experts, is confident that the nation’s hydroelectric generation may just go in one direction: getting worse.

“If climate change caused this year’s water flow decreases, which I think it did, and then its impact [on rivers] will be a long term. It will take a toll on China’s hydroelectric output, and also push up the cost of using it,” explained Lin, who directs the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University.

But still, from Lin’s point of view, such setbacks can’t compete with the Chinese desire for tapping more water power. China, already the world’s largest hydropower user, plans to add another 120 gigawatts by 2015 — a crucial step toward greening 15 percent of its power mix by the end of the decade.

Yang Fuqiang, a senior climate and energy expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, agreed that China’s hydropower plan will stand, though not primarily for energy supply concerns.

Although a climate-resilient approach is factored into the designs of hydro projects, China is still likely to suffer from hydroelectric output decline, says Yang. But the nation can seek more clean energy from the sun or wind, which won’t be affected by climate change, and get the electricity generated elsewhere via a smart grid, he said, referring to an advanced transmission infrastructure China has been building.

So what’s the point of keeping hydro?

“In the future, the importance of hydro projects won’t be on power generation, but on water management,” Yang explained. “It helps control floods, ensure ships transportation and reserve water — a function that [water-scarce] China needs badly.”

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500

Bangkok faces worst flooding yet

Bangkok faces worst flooding yet, governor warns – CNN.

Bangkok faces the highest flood levels yet and is preparing for the worst, the governor of the Thai capital told CNN Wednesday.

Residents are urged to flee the rising floodwaters, which have already forced the closure of Bangkok’s Don Muang airport and the evacuation of flood victims who have taken refuge there.

Thailand’s government has declared a five-day public holiday in flood-affected provinces to try to encourage people to seek safety elsewhere before high tides expected this weekend.

But Bangkok Gov. Sukhumbhand Paripatra told CNN the authorities could not evacuate a whole city and it was difficult to persuade the Thai people to leave their homes, despite the risk.

“Apparently there will be large volume of water runoff coming toward the city tonight onwards, and over the weekend,” he said. “At the point of high tide, it will be very high, the highest this year. We are bracing for the worse.”

Thongthong Chantharangsu, a spokesman for Thailand’s Flood Relief Operations Center, appealed on TV for Bangkok residents to head to the countryside.

Floodwaters extend from Rangsit, north of Bangkok, to Don Muang airport and Yingcharoen Market, state-run news agency MCOT reported.

The water has reached 30cm (12 inches) in places and is overflowing on to sidewalks and some roads, causing problems for small vehicles and leading to traffic congestion, the agency said.

In a televised address Tuesday night, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said the capital could be submerged by as much as 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) of water.

Of particular concern were areas along the Chao Phraya River, which winds through the capital and is expected to overwhelm embankments this weekend.

The Airports of Thailand declared Don Muang airport, which primarily services domestic flights, closed Tuesday night, after floodwaters flowed onto runways and affected the lighting.

Nok Air, which usually operates from Don Muang, was forced to cancel flights but should be able to run an almost normal schedule by Friday after moving its operations to the main Suvarnabhumi Airport, the airline’s chief executive Patee Sarasin said Wednesday. Some 3,000 Nok Air passengers were affected by flight cancellations Tuesday, he said.

The flood relief operation will continue to be based at the airport, the Thai government said Wednesday.

More than 600 prisoners held at Bang Kwang Central Prison have been evacuated, according to the Department of Corrections. The high-security prison has about 4,000 inmates, the chief of the prison said, some of them high-profile.

The floods have also forced the Dusit Zoo to evacuate some animals, including goat antelope and Sika deer, to a zoo in the countryside, according to Dusit Zoo’s chief, Karnchai Saenwong.

The U.S. ambassador to Thailand, Kristie A. Kenny, said the crisis was slow moving and it was hard to know what would be hit next.

Thai flooding threatens capital

Thai flooding threatens capital as residents seek refuge –

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) — Thais waded through flooded streets Thursday, their belongings and children perched on their shoulders, as relentless floodwaters inched toward Bangkok.

In some residential areas, scattered rooftops peeked through muddy waters.

In others, floodwaters gushed into homes, forcing residents to gingerly climb out of apartments through windows.

It’s the worst flood to hit the country in half a century. By Thursday, the death toll had risen to 320, with nearly 9 others million affected, authorities said.

Bangkok preparing for floods

Flooding impacts Thai businesses

Dealing with disaster in Thailand

Thai flooding causing ‘heartache’

Bangkok’s Gov. Sukhumbhand Paribatra ordered authorities to open the city’s floodgates to help drain water into the sea, saying the water passing through canals in the city will be under control.

The governor’s move, which means draining out water through canals in the inner parts of the city, might lead to flooding if there are leakages, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration said on its website.

“The situation is very uncertain as people are rushing to their homes to protect their belongings,” said Natasha Cheung, who works in northern Bangkok for the Christian aid organization World Vision.

Flooding started two months ago, and the number of affected areas has grown as more rains has lashed the region.

Officials predicted that water will enter northern Bangkok Friday.

Sukhumbhand said the situation in Bangkok is not critical, and officials did not declare additional at-risk zones beyond the seven districts announced Wednesday.

Residents in those districts were asked to move their valuables to upper floors.

Authorities also expressed confidence that the country’s main international airport, Suvarnabhumi Airport, was prepared to withstand the water’s impact. Airport officials said a 3.5-meter-high flood prevention wall protects the airport.

Overall damage from the floods could top $2 billion, with the worst yet to come as the waters destroy shops and paralyze factories nationwide, the Thai finance ministry said.

A massive effort is under way to protect one of the nation’s largest industrial parks north of Bangkok that houses companies producing electronics and components for the automotive industry.

At least 14,000 factories have been affected nationwide, with about 250,000 people out of a job due to the floods, according to Richard Han, the CEO of Hana Microelectronics.

The flooding will also disrupt the production of computers, cameras and cars because a lot of Japanese companieshave plants in the country, said Han, whose company is among those affected.

Floodwaters have forced manufacturing sites north of Bangkok to halt operations. Last week, Honda said the closure of its plant there affected the production of at least 4,500 cars.

In Bangkok, crews scrambled to widen canals and strengthen flood barriers amid fears that weekend rains and spring high tides would overwhelm parts of the city.

In the ancient city of Ayutthaya, one of the worst-hit areas, officials said the water was starting to flow toward the rivers.

The temples and monuments in the UNESCO-listed historical city have been submerged for days, prompting concern that much of the water damage will be permanent.

Government officials said they have received $2.07 million in donations, including from other countries, as food and water aid pour in for the worst-hit areas.

CNN’s Kocha Olarn and Faith Karimi contributed to this report.

Flooding in India

Flooding in India : Natural Hazards.

Flooding in India

acquired September 26, 2011 download large image (6 MB, JPEG)
Flooding in India

acquired September 28, 2010 download large image (9 MB, JPEG)

In September 2011, two episodes of heavy rain in a 15-day period inundated the Indian state of Orissa. On September 26, 2011, the Hindustan Times reported that the second period of heavy rainfall claimed 17 lives, brining the total death toll from September flooding to 59. ABC News Australia put the death toll at 60.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured the top image on September 26, 2011. For comparison, the bottom image shows the same area a year earlier, on September 28, 2010. These images show parts of the Brahmani and Mahanadi Rivers near the Bay of Bengal.

Both images use a combination of infrared and visible light to increase contrast between water and land. Water varies in color from electric blue to navy. Vegetation is bright green and clouds are pale blue-green. Bare ground is earth toned.

The most striking difference between these images is the large expanse of flood water around the city of Jajpur. Jajpur District was hardest hit by the second round of flooding in September 2011, cut off from the outside world, according to The Hindu. In the image from September 2011, the city of Jajpur is largely surrounded by flood water. Water is also visibly higher in Chilika (Chilka) Lake.

The Hindu reported that major flooding occurred along the Brahmani and Baitarani Rivers in the state of Orissa. ABC News Australia linked the floods to unusually heavy rains occurring late in the monsoon season.

  1. References

  2. Agence France-Presse. (2011, September 27 [Australia time zone]). 60 dead, 4 million affected in India floods. ABC News Australia. Accessed September 26, 2011.
  3. Barik, S. (2011, September 26). Orissa floods may worsen; 20 lakh affected. The Hindu. Accessed September 26, 2011.
  4. HT correspondents. (2011, September 26). Orissa flood toll hits 59, Bihar in bad state. Hindustan Times. Accessed September 26, 2011.

NASA images courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Michon Scott.

Raindrop Tracker Point to Better Environmental Awareness

Go with the flow : Nature : Nature Publishing Group.

It might seem impossible to get lost in the modern world with its ubiquity of digital maps, but there is more than one way to be lost. Truly knowing where you are goes beyond pinpointing your position. It means knowing where your water comes from and where it goes, where your electricity is generated and where your rubbish ends up. It means being aware of what plants and animals live nearby and what kind of soil lies beneath your feet.

For example, an undergraduate at a rainy Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, can use his or her smartphone to instantly calculate a route to the nearest Starbucks coffee shop. But chances are that he or she remains ignorant of how the rain flows through the city on its way to the White River, the Mississippi and, finally, the Gulf of Mexico.

Enter Raindrop, a phone application that combines sewer and watercourse maps with the software that makes getting a caffeine fix so easy. Tap the map and watch the path of a single raindrop flow from your location through streams, culverts and pipes into the river. The app, due to launch next month, was funded by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and put together by a team led by ecologist Timothy Carter at Butler. It is currently limited to Indianapolis, but similar efforts could be designed for other cities.

A better appreciation of watercourses and other hidden networks can only strengthen human connections to ecosystems, biogeochemical cycles and resource flows, and will arguably make people more likely to support science and environmental causes. Making available the data that science and society produce in these innovative ways can help people to find themselves — even if they had no idea that they were lost.

Residents review 'devastating' damage as waters recede in Vermont

Residents review ‘devastating’ damage as waters recede in Vermont –

Wilmington, Vermont (CNN) — Ten-foot-high flood waters poured through Eileen Ranslow’s 40-year-old flooring business in Wilmington when Irene struck Vermont over the weekend.

The family business, where revenue has dwindled in the economic downturn, now faces at least $300,000 in damage.

“It’s devastating. It’s devastating,” Ranslow said, her voice cracking.

She is not alone, as the effect of Irene continues to be felt in flood-ravaged communities along the U.S. East Coast.

Irene killed 43 people from Florida to New England as it marched up the Eastern Seaboard over the weekend, dumping torrential rain. Some of the worst flooding struck Vermont, New Jersey and upstate New York.

Flood advisories remained in place Thursday for portions of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia and South Carolina.

The extent of the damage in upstate New York has become more evident in the days since Irene, where the storm battered a cluster of communities 50 miles southwest of Albany.

“There is a lot of damage left to clean up. I know the town of Prattsville has been almost completely condemned,” said Jacob Hubbell of neighboring Margaretville. “Fleischmanns isn’t doing too well either, and main street (in) Margaretville has been closed.”

“It’s safe to say that we probably won’t be back to normal in the Catskills for at least a month.”

Stranded in Vermont
Irene’s impact still felt days after storm
Aerials show Irene damage in Vermont
Explain it to me: Weather forecasting

In northern New Jersey, the Passaic River has begun to settle back into its banks, the National Weather Service said. The river is expected to fall below flood stage Thursday morning.

The development will be welcome news in the towns of Wayne, Totowa, Little Falls, Paterson and Woodland Park, where about 1,700 residents were evacuated from their homes this week.

President Barack Obama will travel to Paterson Sunday to view the damage, the White House announced.

The full extent of Irene’s destruction won’t be known for some time. The federal government estimates that the cost from wind damage alone will exceed $1 billion. Analysts have put the total expected cost of Irene much higher.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Thursday the storm also took a toll on agricultural production.

“I had an opportunity to take a look at fields in North Carolina,” he said. “I have never seen anything like it. The corn was just totally destroyed — tobacco hit hard, cotton hit hard.” It remains to be seen how some other crops, such as soybeans and tomatoes, fared, he said, but “it’s very clear that farmers in North Carolina, Virginia, along the East Coast, have suffered pretty significant losses.”

But, he said, it’s unlikely that higher prices will result, as “we have such a diverse agriculture in the United States and we have so many acres planted and so many different crops. I don’t think this is going to affect much of anything.”

The federal government’s tab for the storm could exhaust the $800 million left in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund before the fiscal year ends on September 30.

With conservative House Republicans, led by Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, calling for spending cuts to offset any increase in emergency funds — a measure opposed by many Democrats — the ability of Congress to act quickly on the issue remains uncertain.

Mayor Jeffery Jones of Paterson said he was “outraged” about the funding dispute. “Mother Nature has a mind of her own, a will of her own, and we can’t have the petty wrangling going on when we have folks in dire need,” he said.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie echoed those sentiments during a news conference Wednesday, saying, “We don’t have time to wait for folks in Congress to figure out how they want to offset this stuff with the budget cuts. Our people are suffering now. And they need support now.”

More than 1.7 million customers remained without electricity Wednesday from North Carolina to Maine, the U.S. Department of Energy said — a decrease from the 1.8 million reported earlier in the day. Outage figures include more than 366,000 in Connecticut and 314,000 in New York.

Vermont transportation officials made emergency repairs on roads to all but one of about a dozen previously isolated towns, officials said.

Replacing washed-out bridges will take more time.

Air drops were being made to three towns. The National Guard is carrying supplies to other communities, said Mark Bosma, spokesman for Vermont Emergency Management.

Illinois National Guard helicopters are helping with the operation, distributing food, water and medicine to several towns.

Because the repaired roads are intended for emergency and supply delivery traffic, residents will have to wait for more permanent repairs to resume their old driving habits. That is expected to take at least several weeks or months in some cases.

“We’ve transitioned into the recovery stage for the most part,” Bosma said. “The worst is over.”

In Wilmington, Vermont, volunteers from across the state descended on the community to help with the clean-up.

“I couldn’t sit at home. I had to come help,” said Sarah Boisbert, as she worked outside Ranslow’s gutted flooring shop.

Ranslow was touched by the gesture of so many helping hands.

“They’re just people,” she said, pausing. “They’re neighbors and in Vermont we’re all neighbors.”

Flooding in the Missouri Basin

Flooding in the Missouri Basin : Natural Hazards.

Flooding in the Missouri Basin

acquired August 14, 2011 download large image (5 MB, JPEG)
Flooding in the Missouri Basin

acquired August 11, 2010 download large image (6 MB, JPEG)

In mid-August 2011, long stretches of the Missouri River remained flooded, continuing a situation that began in early June. Water sat on floodplains as far north as Sioux City, Iowa, and as far south as Glasgow, Missouri. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured the top image on August 14, 2011. For comparison, the bottom image shows the same region a year earlier, on August 11, 2010.

Both images use a combination of visible and infrared light to increase contrast between water and land. Water is navy blue. Depending on land cover, land appears green or brown. Clouds are nearly white or pale blue-green and cast shadows.

In 2011, the Missouri River is substantially swollen all along the Nebraska border, and in parts of Missouri and Kansas. Water spans the distance between Nebraska City and Hamburg, Iowa (shown in more detail in a high resolution image).

On August 15, 2011, the Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service (AHPS) of the U.S. National Weather Service reported minor flooding of the Missouri River at Sioux City, Iowa; Nebraska City; and multiple communities along the river in the state of Missouri. The AHPS reported moderate flooding in or near the Nebraska communities of Decatur, Blair, Omaha, Plattsmouth, Brownville, and Rulo. The AHPS also reported moderate flooding in St. Joseph and Glasgow, Missouri; and in Atchison, Kansas.

Although the Missouri experienced much higher water levels in 2011 than in 2010, water was not universally higher that summer. August 2011 actually saw lower water levels along the Des Moines and South Skunk Rivers in Iowa compared to the previous year.

  1. References

  2. National Weather Service. Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service. Accessed August 15, 2011.

NASA images courtesy MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Michon Scott.

Aqua – MODIS