Geologist decries floodplain development

Photo courtesy of USGSLevees are not infalliable.Midwesterners have to be wondering: Will April be the cruelest month? Patterns in the Midwest this spring are eerily reminiscent of 1993 and 1994, back-to-back years of serious flooding. Parallels this year include abnormally high levels of precipitation in late winter and early spring, early flooding in various regions, and record amounts of snow in states upstream. One thing Midwesterners have not learned is “geologic reality,” says Robert E. Criss, Ph.D., professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

New Orleans-style disaster could happen again — in California

Courtesy photo*Delta Primer*Is California vulnerable to a New Orleans-style levee break? The land in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where California’s two great rivers drain into San Francisco Bay, lies as much as 20 feet below sea level, warns Jane Wolff, author of Delta Primer: A Field Guide to the California Delta (2003). A breach on the scale of that in New Orleans would prove catastrophic for California — the world’s sixth-largest economy, home to approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population. In addition to property destruction, salt water from San Francisco Bay would migrate upstream, contaminating the water supply for much of Southern California, including major cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego.