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Flooding of the Red River

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Flooding of the Red River

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  • June 5, 2012
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The Red River located near Fargo, North Dakota, has a history of flooding due to abnormal climate conditions. Every year precautions are taken to help minimize damages that are caused by the flooding. There are four main reasons that contribute to the river flooding so often. These main reasons for the floods are: Synchrony of discharge with spring thaw, ice jams, glacial lake plain, and the decrease in gradient downstream.

The first reason that contributes to the river flooding so often is the ice melting in the spring. The Red River flows northward, and when the ice thaws, it also runs northward along the valley, causing runoff from the southern portions of the river. When the ice, river water, and runoff all join together in the northern areas, it can cause major flooding. The second problem that contributes to the Red River flooding so frequently is ice jams. Since the river flows northward, the ice created from the cold weather will also flow to the north. When the ice joins together in areas they will create an ice jam, which will build up in the northern parts of the river. These ice jams will build a dam that will stop the water flow and in turn create a flood. The third factor related to the Red River flooding so often is that the river flows into a massive ice-dammed glacial lake called Lake Agassiz. Lake Agassiz is one of the flattest expanses of land in the world (Fargo Geology). When the river floods into the lake, the results of the flooding can become very dramatic. The reason for the dramatic flooding into the lake is because the Red River is so young in age; the age of the river is about 9,200 years old. Due to the young age of the river, it has not had a chance to carve its way through the valley into the lake, which causes the flooding.

Finally, the fourth major reason for the river flooding is a decrease in gradient downstream. Gradient refers to the slope of the river. In some areas the slope of the river is five inches per mile. In...