Ocean of moisture in clouds falls to earth, causing floods

By: 
Duane Dailey

Videos show flood water flowing down the Platte River from Nebraska into the Missouri River. There are still snowbanks further north adding to the flood. Photos show bridges, vehicles and roads swept away.

We see the impact of millions of tons of moving water rushing our way. Floods have huge power. All of that water and more will flow downhill.

Now, ask yourself: How did that much water get up there, ready to flow back to the Gulf of Mexico? The flood of 1993 taught me to think about the dependence of farming on climate. In that wet year, we had weather similar to now.

Vast amounts of water were picked up from the Gulf of Mexico and carried to the upper Midwest. When warm wet air met cold Arctic air coming south, the air lost carrying capacity. Water and snow fell from the sky.

In 1993 the weekly teleconferences by MU climatologist explained that an ocean of water was flowing north over Missouri. It was to fall to earth and run back down to the Gulf from which it came.

Early this winter, I saw that happen again. I’m a sky watcher at bed time and early morning dark. I check the sky. It used to be I saw the constellation Orion pointing to Sirius, the brightest star in the southern sky. Not so much this winter. Too many clouds blocked the view in recent months.

That was my sign that tons of water were flowing north in the sky.

Back in 1993, my most-used story of the flood season started with a paragraph about an ocean of water in the air. That lede caught editors’ attention.

This year water laden air was more than the ocean of air seen in 1993. The world’s waters warmed since then. Warm water evaporates faster. That’s how water gets picked up into the atmosphere.

We’ll pay the price for a long time. This week I visited Jim Crawford at MU Graves-Chapple research farm on I-29 near the Missouri River. Flood water covers the lower plots on that farm. There won’t be as much research this year. Jim says there are 30 breaks in the levees. This flood was higher than in 1993 and 2011.

Maybe we should have built infrastructure to contain rising rivers that will come with warming of the oceans.

There’s lots of snow still melting. The weather bureau 30-day forecast says that same area will get more rain than usual. Floods continue. As Jim Crawford notes those levee breaks can’t be fixed soon. “The spring rise is not here yet.”

It’s not just the research farm plots in danger. Millions of acres of corn and bean fields are lost. I’m not sure the early planting intention reports will mean much this year.

Delayed planting, or not planting, will affect our farm economy. Here in the Midwest the farm economy leads the general economy.

There are economic cycles and there are weather cycles. The weather changes have gone on for millions and millions of years. Most know that there was an ice age. That dug holes that became the Great Lakes. The rich soil from that area landed over the northern Corn Belt including Iowa, northern Illinois and northern Missouri. Climate affected agriculture areas from the beginning.

Many don’t know there were four ice ages before this last one. We’ve been in a warming phase a long time. What’s different this time is we’ve released so much carbon dioxide into the air that adds to our current warming.

Our President said last week, we can’t stop burning coal as wind power won’t work. “The wind doesn’t blow all the time.” He doesn’t get out here often or very long. I felt a lot more wind this winter. Energy released into the atmosphere drives the winds. Every time I start my car, I add to that energy.

Send ideas to duanedailey7@gmail.com.

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