Communities in Colorado may soon have advance warning of dangerous flash floods.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey
Forecasting Flash Floods in Colorado's Mountains
News story originally written on July 22, 2008
Dangerous flash floods have killed hundreds of people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage in the Front Range of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. The area gets summer flash floods when intense thunderstorms release rainwater quickly into steep mountain valleys.
Soon people living near creeks and rivers in the Front Range will be warned of dangerous flash floods, thanks to a new forecasting tool being tested by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
"Since flash floods are complex and fast-moving events, we need to know about both weather and ground conditions in order to predict them," explains NCAR scientist David Yates.
Flash floods are difficult to predict because they happen suddenly. Weather forecasters can tell when conditions might lead to flooding. Their radars can detect heavy rain and can tell when a storm has stopped moving, releasing lots of water in one area. But flash floods don’t happen every time it rains. They also depend on the soil, the shape of the land and the shape of the river or stream.
The new forecasting tool combines weather information with information about the water flowing in streams and the shape of the land. It can give people at least 30 minutes warning before flood waters start rising and possibly as much as an hour or two.
"If we can show that our system has some reasonable skill in predicting floods, we think officials may become more interested in using it along with their existing suites of tools," says NCAR scientist David Gochis.
Last modified September 5, 2008 by Lisa Gardiner.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
on science education, classroom activities in The Earth Scientist
specimens, and educational games
You might also be interested in:
Thunderstorms are one of the most thrilling and dangerous types of weather phenomena. Over 40,000 thunderstorms occur throughout the world each day. Thunderstorms form when very warm, moist air rises into...more
Rivers are very important to Earth because they are major forces that shape the landscape. Also, they provide transportation and water for drinking, washing and farming. Rivers can flow on land or underground...more
Scientists have learned that Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, has erupted in the past due to the mixing of two different types of magma. "The data will help give us a better road map to what a future...more
The Earth's mantle is a rocky, solid shell that is between the Earth's crust and the outer core, and makes up about 84 percent of the Earth's volume. The mantle is made up of many distinct portions or...more
Some geologic faults that appear strong and stable, slip and slide like weak faults, causing earthquakes. Scientists have been looking at one of these faults in a new way to figure out why. In theory,...more
The sun goes through cycles that last approximately 11 years. These solar cycle include phases with more magnetic activity, sunspots, and solar flares. They also include phases with less activity. The...more
Studying tree rings doesn't only tell us the age of that tree. Tree rings also show what climate was like for each year of a tree's life, which means they can tell us about climates of the past and about...more