DEVELOPING THE LONG VIEW OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER’S FLOOD HISTORY: HOLOCENE “MEGAFLOODS” TO YESTERDAY
For the nine gaging stations located above the confluence with the Ohio River, the 100-year flood has been exceeded between two to six times for each gage assessed since 1900 suggesting a review of the current flood frequency estimates is needed along these river segments. Official flood-flow frequencies for the Lower Mississippi River Valley have never been estimated because the flood risk assessment and associated mitigation efforts along this segment have been based on the “maximum probable flood” (MPF) which ranges from 70,800 m3/s near Cairo, Illinois up to 81,800 m3/s near Greenville, Mississippi. While the MPF has not been exceeded within the instrumental record, there have been at least four events during the period of record which have come within 20% of the MPF. The marine depositional record from the northern Gulf of Mexico suggests the occurrence of multiple mid- to late- Holocene “meagafloods.” It has been suggested the magnitude of discharge from these flood events were similar to the smaller late-Pleistocene to early Holocene deglacial floods (~100,000 m3/s average discharge). The return period of these “megafloods” has been estimated to be ~1,000 years. Floods of such a magnitude are unprecedented in the instrumental flood record and would substantially exceed the MPF and protection level of the flood mitigation works along the Lower Mississippi River.