SIU Researcher: Flood Control Efforts Cause Bigger Floods

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 18, 2018 | Go to article overview

SIU Researcher: Flood Control Efforts Cause Bigger Floods


Byline: Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE -- Flood control engineering along the Mississippi River during the last century has caused floods to increase in magnitude when they do happen, according to an article published this week in a leading scientific journal and co-authored by a researcher at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The article, published recently in the journal Nature, argues that climate patterns, such as El Ni[+ or -]o and others, also strongly affect flooding trends. But changing the river's channels, through confining it with levees, has greatly amplified flooding when it does occur.

Jonathan Remo, associate professor of geography and environmental resources, co-authored the article on the study, which examined the physical record for last 500 years of flooding along the river. The researchers focused on the river from about Cairo south to the Vicksburg, Miss.

Centuries of floods revealed by tree rings, sand

The researchers used a technique known as paleoflood reconstruction to gain information about flooding from before records were kept, stretching back to 1500.

The methods involved examining sand left behind by the river in floodplain lakes during flooding events centuries ago. Using radio carbon dating techniques, researchers were able to tell the age of the organic material that accumulates on top of each new sand deposit left by a flood, giving them a relative date for each flood.

SIU geography faculty member contributes expertise

An expert in flooding and river management, Remo contributed further to the project by using knowledge gained from a nearly $300,000 National Science Foundation-funded study that examined the flooding record left behind in tree rings along the Mississippi River and its principal tributaries. …

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