Twin Cities More Like Twin Lakes This Week

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 26 2014 6:26 PM

Twin Cities More Like Twin Lakes This Week

This year has been one for the record books in Minnesota. After the coldest winter in a generation, and the second coldest ever in Duluth, ice remained adrift on Lake Superior until June.

As of this week—amazingly—there was still snow in the parking lot at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport:

Advertisement

This spring, it’s barely stopped raining.

On Thursday afternoon, the raging Mississippi River crested in St. Paul at the sixth highest level all time—six feet above flood stage—with a flow rate of 122,000 cubic feet per second. That’s enough to fill the Empire State Building in about five minutes.

The exceptionally high river levels have come after an exceptionally rainy month. The Twin Cities need less than an inch of rainfall by Monday to break a 140-year-old record for June rainfall (11.67 inches), and the forecast is currently calling for up to four inches. Any further rainfall will prolong the crest, which has already caused mudslides, flooded cities and farmers’ fields ,and prompted disaster declarations in 35 counties across the state. The impact in flood-hardened St. Paul itself has been relatively minor, like the relocation of cars from the city’s impound lot, and the closing of three roller coasters at a nearby amusement park.

Factoring in last winter’s abundant snowfall, the Twin Cities will easily finish the wettest first half-year on record, according to data from the National Weather Service:

Heavy rains in 1965 caused the Twin Cities’ worst flood on record, six feet above this week’s levels:

A persistent jet stream pattern, locked in place at least partially by the mammoth California drought, has helped keep the atmosphere unusually productive across the upper Midwest so far this year.

As with the recent record heavy rains in Pensacola and Oso, Washington, more intense rainstorms are linked to human-caused global warming, which acts to supercharge the warmer atmosphere with additional water vapor.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Eric Holthaus is a meteorologist who writes about weather and climate for Slate’s Future Tense. Follow him on Twitter.