After prolonged flooding along the Mississippi River this spring, current and former federal officials warn more resources and creative solutions are needed for future management of the river.
Steve Buan is hydrologist in charge at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) North Central River Forecast Center. During a recent webinar held by advocacy group America’s Watershed Initiative, Buan said 2018 had the highest annual precipitation since records started in 1895, coming in at an average of 48 inches across the basin.
It’s part of what led to continuing flooding on the Mississippi River this spring, which halted commercial navigation and broke the record in St. Paul, Minnesota for most continuous days above the flood stage.
While the river basin has seen high precipitation in years before, Buan said the average yearly precipitation has been increasing since the late 1970s. He points to the 25-year moving average for the Mississippi River Basin.
"From 1895 through the late 1970s, every time you look back 25 years, you had about the same amount of average precipitation, that being about 38 inches (per year)," Buan said. "Once we got to the late 70s into the early 80s, we start looking back and we’re adding wetter years than we’re taking off."