Researchers have figured out a new way to predict which rivers are most at risk of dangerous flooding. To do so, they measured how much water was stored in a river basin months ahead of the spring flood season. "Just like a bucket can only hold so much water, the same concept applies to river basins," said lead study author J.T. Reager, an earth scientist.
When the ground is saturated, or filled to its brim, conditions are ripe for flooding. Reager and his colleagues looked back in time using satellite data, and measured how much water was soaking the ground before the 2011 Missouri River floods. The researchers found their statistical model strongly predicted this major flood event five months in advance. With less reliability, the prediction could be extended to 11 months in advance, the researchers said.