Courtesy ThorWith several of the past springs being hot flooding years, we geared up our flood cam to chronicle the rise of the Mississippi River outside the windows of SMM. But this spring's gradual melting hasn't created much in flooding conditions. It turns out, however, we now have interesting time lapse captures of the "ebb and melt" of our late snows these past three weeks. You can check it out here. That is, I guess, if you really want to look at more snow!!!
Courtesy The Theater of Public PolicyPreliminary information from a study of river water DNA samples done two years ago cranked up concerns about the presence of Asian carp in Minnesota sections of the Mississippi River and also the St. Croix River. But new and deeper analysis of the data shows that the menacing fish haven't been regular residents of those waters, and that local authorities have plenty of time to plan ways of keeping the invasive species away.
What changed? Last year researchers used more precise methods of identifying the DNA, they found that the earlier DNA samples were most likely not from Asian carp.
It's all good news in the short term. The Asian carp have been slowly migrating up the Mississippi River, upsetting the eco-balance of those waters for many years. The fish are aggressive and actually can "jump" out of the water and into anglers' boats. They also are aggressively eating foods that are the diets of native fish.
This new information isn't slowing down plans to try to halt the spread of the fish upstream, authorities added. Among the plans are to install underwater noise and bubble barriers at the Ford Dam on the Mississippi River in the heart of the Twin Cities.
Here's some good news for a cheery day. A new report says that that the Mississippi River around the Twin Cities is as clean as it's ever been in the time frame that river water quality has been measured.
Courtesy Tomas CastelazoIt was just a few weeks ago we posted incredible pictures and video of devastating floods ripping through Duluth. Now, on a national scale, the weather story is drought. But how bad is it really?
Depends on where you live, but much of the Midwest is falling into drought conditions. It's bad, but not as wide spread as the peak of U.S. drought conditions from 1934. USA Today has an interesting toggle map that allows you compare today's conditions with that record drought.
Even earlier this summer, heavy rains in the Twin Cities had lockmasters along the Mississippi River shutting their gates to control fast-flowing river water. Now downstream, the Mississippi is approaching record-level lows. In some areas around Memphis, the river level has fallen 55 feet from highs set last summer. This CNN website report has interesting satellite images of the newly slimmed Mississippi compared to last year's look.
What do you think of this crazy weather? Share your thoughts here with other Buzz readers.
Courtesy US Geological Survey Photographic LibraryToday marks the bicentennial of the start of the historic New Madrid earthquake series, which began at 2am on December 16, in 1811. The quakes were so powerful, large areas of land uplifted and sank creating new lakes and swamps, and causing islands to disappear. Large waves spawned by the tremors raked across the banks of the Mississippi causing massive landslides, and even briefly changing the course of the mighty river.
Named after the nearby river village of New Madrid in the then Louisiana Territory (now Missouri), the quake and its many aftershocks affected an area 10 times larger than the famous 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Luckily, the New Madrid area was sparsely populated when the line of strong earthquakes took place, as they were the strongest recorded earthquakes ever to take place east of the Rocky Mountains.
Earthquakes of such magnitude as those that struck New Madrid (~ 7.0) typically occur along plate boundaries - areas where one tectonic plate is colliding with another, such as along the West Coast's San Andreas Fault. The mid-section of the country sets on only one plate - the normally stable North American plate. Faults do run through it, such as the Cottonwood Grove and the Reelfoot faults which some scientists hypotheisze were responsible for the New Madrid series.
But researchers don't agree on what caused the strong intraplate earthquakes. They could have been triggered by other distant earthquakes or by the release of energy built up by the heating of the crust from an upper mantle magma plume or from isostatic rebound - that is the release of stresses caused by the retreat of glaciers that once covered the region.
Whatever the cause and despite new data being gathered by present day geologists, the New Madrid earthquakes were an historic anomaly that remain wrapped in mystery.
Back in 1823, Italian explorer Giacomo Beltrami did.
Courtesy Wikemidia Commons
Before famous explorers like George Catlin (1830), Seth Eastman (1830), and Nathan Sturges Jarvis (1833) visited Minnesota and assembled cultural and artistic collections relating to Minnesota’s indigenous people, Giacomo Costantino Beltrami navigated the Mississippi River—mostly solo and protected primarily by a red silk umbrella. Beltrami’s reasoning—correctly it turns out—was the red umbrella would be so exotic he would not be mistaken as a tribal member to the warring Dakota and Ojibwe nations.
Beltrami tagged along on the official US reconnaissance mission to map the "Northwest" (currently the state of Minnesota). Beltrami and Maj. Stephen J. Long disagreed during the journey, and in Pembina they parted ways. Beltrami took off with three Ojibwe guides in a birchbark canoe to search for the source of the Mississippi River--his goal all along.
Within five days they'd been ambushed by neighboring Dakota Indians, one of the Ojibwes was wounded, and they were running out of supplies. The Ojibwe guides tried to convince Beltrami to walk to Red Lake with them, but he refused to leave his canoe and his collections.
So there Beltrami sat alone, a foreigner in the wilderness with a canoe, a rifle, and a red umbrella. Unable to master paddling solo, he dragged the canoe after him with a tow line and propped the umbrella in the bow--basically to make onlookers curious before they shot at him.
Why is this story relevant to science? Beltrami wasn't just an explorer, he was a collector. He amassed over 100 American Indian objects through diplomacy, exchanges, barter, and purchases. He consciously and thoroughly documented where he purchased the pieces and whom he purchased them from, leaving us with a rare resource that has the potential to expand our understanding of the cultural exchanges and personal interactions that occurred between Beltrami and Minnesota’s Indigenous people in 1823.
This 188 year-old ethnographic collection is the basis for my research for the next year. Stay tuned to Science Buzz for more research findings.
Oh, and that red umbrella? It's in the collection too!
Courtesy Tilly Laskey
Courtesy Azure BevingtonYou might have heard about the terrible flooding that is occurring all along the Mighty Mississippi. As I write this I am sitting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana hoping the levees will hold. Normally the river in Baton Rouge is far below the tops of the levees. Flood stage, which is the water level at which the river would begin to flood surrounding areas without the levees acting as barriers, is 35 ft. Right now the water level is 42.8 ft and has risen 8 ft in just the last week. It is projected to crest at 47.5 ft and remain at that level for 8 to 10 days; this is higher than the previous record set in May 1927 of 47.28 ft. The tops of the levees that protect Baton Rouge are between 47 and 50 ft, they are currently sandbagging in areas less than 48 ft. Besides the possibility of overtopping there are also other problems that we need to look out for. When the river level remains high for an extended period of time the water can seep in and begin to saturate the soil, this can possibly weaken the levee structure. There is also the possibility of water going under the levee; this can result in sand boils, where the water bubbles up through the soil. It is very unlikely that this will happen, as the levees are strong and well constructed, but we need to be on the lookout for any problems.
Here in Baton Rouge we are much better off than many who live in communities within the Atchafalaya Basin, where the expected opening of the Morganza spillway could cause flooding of over 3 million acres (Click here to see a map of projected flooding in the basin) Many of these folks have already begun to sandbag their homes and to prepare to leave the area. The Morganza spillway is a large controlled gated structure that will divert water from the Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya Basin. The Atchafalaya Basin is a low lying cypress swamp that normally receives 30% of the flow of the Mississippi River through the Old River Control structure through the Atchafalaya River that winds its way through the swamp. This flood is projected to be larger than the 1973 flood and possibly even larger than the 1927 flood that devastated communities along the river, and brought about the passage of Flood Control Act of 1928. The magnitude of this year’s flood has already resulted in the opening of the Bonnet Carré spillway which diverts water into Lake Pontchartrain, this reduces the water levels as the River flows past New Orleans.
Stay tuned for updates on the flooding in Louisiana.
Have any of you been affected by the flood waters?
Sometime tonight the US Army Corps of Engineers will blow up a levee at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
All that rain that fell in April has both rivers swollen WAY past flood stage. (Water levels outside Cairo, Illinois, were at 61.4' this afternoon; "flood stage" begins at 40'.)
Major General Michael Walsh, head of the Mississippi River Commission,
"...ordered the intentional breach to alleviate pressure in the river system and to protect Cairo, even though it may lead to the flooding of 130,000 acres of mostly farmland in Missouri."
Disaster junkies, prepare to be disappointed.
The National Weather Service says that the Mississippi River at downtown St. Paul has crested, again, at 18.71'. (Previous crest was on 3/30 at 19.1'.)
Forecasters say that the river will remain at this level for a few days before falling at the end of the week. And they caution that the model only includes precipitation anticipated in the next 24 hours. A lot of rain in the next few days could cause the river to rise. Again.