Flood Risk High, says MU Extension Climatologist Cool, Damp, Cloudy Weather Keeps Soils Saturated

Duane Dailey, MU Cooperative Media Group

COLUMBIA, Mo. - "Look for significant flooding to continue into spring," says Pat Guinan, University of Missouri Extension climatologist.

During a trip across northern Missouri, Guinan observed saturated soils, farm ponds lapping at their spillways, and streams and rivers that were bank-full or flooding. "Fields are bog-like and ruts in crop fields harvested in wet weather last fall are full of water," he said. "All factors are in place for high flood potential."

There have been no drying days so far this year, he added. "Sunshine and warm winds from the south usually begin evaporating the water. At mid-March we've had few days of warm temperatures, only cloudy, cool or damp weather."

So far this year, precipitation has not been excessive, but even minor precipitation can cause flooding, he said. "There's just no place for the water to go but downstream."

Reports from northwestern Missouri indicate frequent flooding of rural roads from small streams.

Current weather forecasts don't offer help. Short- and long-term outlooks call for near- to below-normal temperatures and near- to above-normal precipitation until the end of March.

Then the wet months arrive.

"Climatologically, May and June are our wettest months," Guinan said.

The accumulated water in Missouri fields is the result of two back-to-back wet years, he said. In Missouri, 2008 was the wettest year on record going back to 1895. That was followed by the ninth-wettest year on record in 2009.

"That was the first time we've had two consecutive years with more than 50 inches of precipitation," Guinan said.

The two-year departure from normal precipitation was plus 24.83 inches. That ranked Missouri the second-wettest state in the nation, surpassed only by Arkansas.

Look for flooding in both the Missouri and Mississippi river basins, Guinan said. Heavy snowpack remains in the upper Great Plains and northern Midwest. Satellite maps show that snow remains north and west from Des Moines, Iowa, with the heaviest snowpack across North Dakota. Much of that snowmelt will come through Missouri.

Snow remained on the ground in far northwestern Missouri from Dec. 7 until the first week of March. "It's most unusual to have snow on the ground for three months," Guinan said. Some reporting stations in that area recorded more than 50 inches of snow.

Guinan tracks the weather for the MU Extension Commercial Agriculture Program. He maintains 28 automated weather stations across the state. Reports from all stations are available at http://agebb.missouri.edu/weather/stations/.

Wet weather increases maintenance problems at those stations. "Some of my tripod towers are sinking into the mud," Guinan said. At one, a rain gauge mounted on a post fell over because the ground was too boggy. Freezing and thawing of saturated soil has floated his subsoil temperature sensors out of the ground.

"It will be highly unlikely that we would have a third year of record-setting precipitation in 2010," he said. "But a year ago I was saying it would be highly unlikely to have two years of record precipitation."

For online information of river resources in Missouri, please visit the following link: http://agebb.missouri.edu/weather/river.htm

Source: Pat Guinan, 573-882-5908

Questions? Comments?
Please e-mail Dr. Patrick Guinan , Phone: 573-882-5908
Missouri State Climatologist
School of Natural Resources
102 Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources Building
Columbia, MO 65211