Streamflow in the West

Water Vapor GOES 21 December 2010

Water Vapor GOES 21 December 2010

h/t to George in this comment on the Utah Wet posting for the image

Original Image Source

OK, we had the rains. There is more on the way, but it cleared last night long enough for me to get a 5 minute view of the total eclipse of the moon; and today it’s bright outside, even if no sun is visible behind the clouds. May even make it through the day without being rained out…

We were watching the Western Rain in this posting:

Now the question becomes: Where did that water go, and was there a lot of it reaching the ground?

Well, a big h/t to David who pointed me at the USGS stream flow data source. Thanks to that, we have some nice maps with present stream flow rates to look at.

First up, Arizona.

It’s a bit off the storm track and has been having a bit of a drouth lately. All we’re looking for here is something to be getting back toward normal, even just a little. It’s still ‘way early’ in the storm cycle and we’ve only just started having the storm door open. Furthermore, Arizona is in an odd position. It gets some of the California type cycle, but it also gets some of the eastern style with thunderstorms in summer. Sometimes small hurricanes run up the Gulf of California and dump a load on Phoenix. Very strange place some times.

Arizona Current Drought November 2010

Arizona Current Drought November 2010

Original Image

Original from this page / site inset.

Based on historical stream flow to date, they are having some significant drought conditions. Does the present stream flow offer any hope of this resolving?

Arizona Real Time Streamflow 21 Dec 2010 13:30 ET

Arizona Real Time Streamflow 21 Dec 2010 13:30 ET

Streamflow Legend

Streamflow Legend

Original Image, but it’s live so will change…

Original from this site.

Still some spots that didn’t get rained upon, but generally “normal” stream flow. Hey, maybe that drought is slowly coming to an end? I note that Flagstaff is way above normal now, so their drouth looks to be ending.

Utah Stream Flow

How is Utah looking in all this?

Utah Realtime Streamflow 21 DEC 2010 13:30 ET

Utah Realtime Streamflow 21 DEC 2010 13:30 ET

Streamflow Legend

Streamflow Legend

Original Image, but it’s live so will change…

Original from this site.

Well. Quite a few well above normal. Those “black dots” in the lower left corner are a bit of a worry too.

Looks to me like this “Gully Washer” is turning into a “Frog Drowner” or “Frog Strangler” as my Texas Uncle Ken likes to call them…


California had first dibs on the clouds, did it also get a boat load of rain?
(Did we ever… but here’s the map to show it.)

California Real Time Streamflow 21 December 2010 13:30 ET

California Real Time Streamflow 21 December 2010 13:30 ET

Streamflow Legend

Streamflow Legend

Original Image, but it’s live so will change…

Original from this site.

Talk about being beaten black and blue…

Whooo-Wheee! Look at all those black dots down in the Los Angeles Basin area! Makes those paltry “above normal” and “much above normal” up where I am look positively anemic in comparison… Though I’m thinking maybe I ought to go eyeball the creek about 1/2 mile from me… I’m up hill from it, but only about 3 feet. It’s flooded the houses in the 100 feet next to it before… (but never gotten even close to me in the nearly 30 years we’ve lived here… wait, where have I heard that 30 year number before 8-}

In Conclusion

We’ve had a heck of a storm, and we’ve been able to watch it from clouds, to rain, to stream flow levels. Kind of neat, isn’t it? We’ve also seen the historical studies that show this western basin gets more water when a cycle turns to cooling. We clearly had less water during the recent warming part of the cycle. (The Arizona Drought Map and the Lake Mead water level show that). So if the “Warmers” want to assert that the increased droughts were due to “Warming” then they must also accept that the recent turn to wetter is due to the cooling half of the cycle which we have entered.

But water cycles take time to work. So we’ll get to watch this part of the show for the next year or two as it slowly unfolds.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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8 Responses to Streamflow in the West

  1. George says:

    Rivers and streams throughout Washington and Kane County continue to flow at dangerous levels. Many places along the Virgin river and Santa Clara river systems are flooded. Damage to these areas remains centered on flooded roads and damaged bridges.

    The North Fork of the Virgin river as it flows through Zion
    National Park is flowing at 2000 cfs. The river typically flows
    near 40 cfs at this time of year… and is forecast to rise to 4600 cfs at 1 PM on Wednesday. Areas impacted by these high flows include roads and bridges as the river flows through Zion National Park.

    The Virgin river near the town of Virgin is currently flowing at 7700 cfs. Typically… the Virgin at this stretch of river flows at 150 cfs… and is forecast to rise to 8700 cfs at 3pm on Wednesday. Low lying areas near the town of Virgin are affected by these high flows.

    The Santa Clara river near St. George is currently flowing around 2300 cfs. The river at this point typically flows at 6 cfs at this time of year… and will decline throughout the nighttime hours… only to rise to a forecasted peak of 2500 cfs again at 10 PM on Wednesday night. Flooding along the river has been mostly contained to Road… bridge… and irrigation infrastructure damage.

    The Virgin river near the town of Bloomington is currently flowing at 12400 cfs. This river gage is located below the confluence of the Virgin river and the Santa Clara river. Typically… this stretch of river flows near 150 cfs… and is forecasted to rise to 14600 cfs by 1 am on Thursday morning.

    With this significant rainfall… slot canyons… small streams… and dry washes have been flooding since late Sunday night… December 19th. With the additional rainfall forecasted for Wednesday… these waterways are also forecast to remain in flood.

    Although flooding has been predominantly a Washington County problem… damage due to flooding has also been reported in Kane County. The Johnson Wash flooded earlier on Tuesday… and closed sr 89 just west of Kanab. There have been many instances of flooding in the drainages flowing south from northern Kane County. Road
    damage in these areas has only exacerbated the already damaged roads in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

    Anyone driving North from Las Vegas to St. George should have an absolutely spectacular drive through the Virgin River Gorge!

  2. David says:

    Also cool about the USGS site is it shows lake levels and water tables, which if your well happens to tap into, this is really nice to know.

    Because so many streams are dammed and have reservoirs, stream flow may not be a great indication of drought unless you choose an unrestricted stream. The unrestricted Merced flowing through Yosemite is a great example. For over one year it has been consitently well above the mean, yet during the entire time I keep reading of Calif drought.

  3. David says:

    The merced for the last 120 days.

    Prior to August it was well above normal and only reached normal levels for part of August and September.

  4. David says:

    oops, missed the correct link

  5. E.M.Smith says:


    Hope those folks diving up the Virgin River Gorge have a powerful motor on that boat! ;-)

    But yeah, the view would be spectacular!


    (that I found from the link you gave)

    has a neat national stream flow map where you can click on your state and see what’s happening.

    Here’s the Merced River link

    presently running 10 x median 4 x mean and 1/5 Max Ever set in 1956.

    Here’s the same page with the ‘counter’ set to 120 days instead of 7 ( I think that’s what you were trying to do) and it DOES look impressive.

  6. David says:

    Thanks EM. Prior to Sept 11th 2010 when the run off from 2009 finally receeded to normal the guage was well above the mean for months consectively as the 2009 melt and snowpack was above normal. If you take a look, keep in mind the lines are logarithmic on these charts.

  7. George says:

    @E.M. Smith

    You don’t need a boat, Interstate 15 goes right through the gorge. It is a nice drive from Mesquite, NV to St. George, UT that I take once every couple of years or so. It is spectacular at any time of year but probably particularly so right now. What is a shame is that there is nowhere to pull over in the gorge. There is barely enough room for the roadway!

  8. E.M.Smith says:


    Note the ;-) on my prior comment… I’ve driven the gorge, and it is a wonderful view. But, like you said “barely enough room for the roadway”… Wonder when it becomes a “boat way” 8-)

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