An Overview of the Factors Leading to the 2013 Record Flooding along the Yukon River and Examination of the Suomi NPP VIIRS River Ice and Flooding Areal

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015: 2:30 PM
126BC (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Edward W. Plumb, NOAA/NWS, Fairbanks, AK; and M. Kreller

The 2013 spring river-ice breakup of the Yukon River in Alaska resulted in destructive flooding of several communities. Large ice jams dammed the Yukon River and created massive lakes as the river inundated the surrounding floodplain. The village of Galena found itself in the center of a lake as ice plugged the Yukon River downstream of the community at a pinch point called Bishop Rock. Rising floodwaters surged overbank and damaged or destroyed much of the village. The factors leading up to the record flooding in 2013 as well chronicle of the events that occurred when the Yukon River rose and engulfed the village of Galena will be discussed.

During the 2013 Yukon River flooding event at Galena, water level and ice conditions were provided by river observers, community or public officials, and Alaska River Watch program. Although these river and ice observations are invaluable, there is still a large data sparsity issue across Alaska for spring river break-up. Suomi NPP Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) satellite imagery became highly effective in seeing the expansive flooding extent during river ice jam and flooding in Galena along the Yukon River which was extremely beneficial for National Weather Service meteorological and hydrological forecasters from the Fairbanks Weather Forecast Office and Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center. An initiative was developed by the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) Satellite Proving Ground in conjunction with the Community College of New York (CCNY) and George Mason University (GMU) to produce river ice and flooding areal extent products using the VIIRS satellite imagery. The 2013 Galena flooding event served as an ideal cast to evaluate the potential use of these new and innovative products in an operational setting. The results of the new river ice and flooding areal extent products operationally during the Galena flooding event will be discussed and a brief summary of future developments will be provided.