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Real flood risk in the Great Rivers State

Dr. Bob Criss from Washington University looks at how we continually underestimate our risk from flooding in communities along the river.

This is a NASA enhanced satellite image of the extent of floodwaters in the summer of 1993 at the confluence of Missouri, Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.

Time and Place

Wednesday, September 11, 2013
6:30 pm

Big A's on the Riverfront
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Presented by Bob Criss, PhD, Professor at Washington University

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

4:30 p.m. Free Paddle trip with Big Muddy Adventures!
6. p.m. 
Meet at Big A’s Restaurant
6:30 p.m. Presentation
At Big A’s Restaurant
308 N Main St. –  St Charles, MO
(directions below)

This photo of an industrial park in the Chesterfield Bottoms in the flood of 1993. Photo from a St. Louis Post-Dispatch retrospective article.

This photo of an industrial park in the Chesterfield Bottoms in the flood of 1993. Photo from a St. Louis Post-Dispatch retrospective article.

 PLUS! Special opportunity for a free paddle before the presentation with Big Muddy Adventures! See below for details.

How many so called “100-year floods” have you witnessed in your lifetime? Why are we continually surprised when floods of “unprecedented” heights hit our riverside communities? What did we learn from the Flood of 1993, 20 years ago, and what did we ignore?

Recent floods on major Midwestern rivers have set all-time record levels at numerous sites, prompting great overuse of the terms “100-year”, “200-year” and “500-year” floods.  This overuse is not trivial because the posited “100-year” flood levels have regulatory significance and affect property values.  Statistical methods prove that the calculated flood levels for extreme events are much too low, particularly because population stationarity has been assumed in official calculations, even though many factors such as climate change and in-channel structures are causing flood levels to rise.  New methods are proposed for the estimation of future flood levels that take secular changes into account.  These methods show that the official “100-year” levels are too low by 1 to 3 feet at many locations, and suggest that average levels attained by extreme floods will continue to rise by about an inch per year.

Dr. Bob Criss of Washington University will discuss the science behind forecasting (or mis-forecasting) flood risk as well as the effects of changes we are making to the floodplains affect flood risk.

Robert E. Criss (PhD Caltech 1981) is Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. Following his dissertation studies in Geochemistry Bob was a geologist with the United States Geological Survey, then Professor of Geology at UC Davis. He is author of Principles of Stable Isotope Distribution (Oxford, 1999) and co-editor of several books including At the Confluence: Rivers, Floods, and Water Quality in the St. Louis Region (MBG Press, 2003). Bob’s research embodies the quantitative explanation of huge data sets on diverse natural systems, typically involving the development of original mathematical formulae. His published papers and editorial commentary encompass many disciplines and have appeared in 38 different scientific journals, several government publications, numerous books and 4 newspapers.

Free Paddle Trip with Big Muddy Adventures!

Join expert Missouri River guide Mike Clark of Big Muddy Adventures before the presentation for a up and downstream paddle through downtown St. Charles on the Junebug canoe. Space is limited – first come first served.

Meet by the river behind Big A’s at 4:30. You’ll be back by 6 p.m.



To Big A’s on the Riverfront, our host for the Speaker Series.

To get there from I-70

  • Take I-70 to exit 229B – the 5th St. Exit
  • Merge onto 5th St. headed north toward St. Charles.
  • After about 1 mile, turn right on Monroe St.
  • Turn left onto N. Main St.
  • Big A’s will be on your right (308 N. Main St.) Additional parking is available in the rear.
  • View on Google Maps.

The Big Muddy Speakers Series in St. Charles

is hosted by Missouri River ReliefFriends of Big Muddy, Greenway Network, Big Muddy Adventures, the Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge and the Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office (USFWS) . All speakers are presenting for free and Big A’s is sharing the space for free! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with all of us!

The Big Muddy Speaker Series also takes place in Rocheport and Kansas City. Click here for the series homepage»

A special thank you to Greg Poleski of Greenway Network and Mike Clark of Big Muddy Adventures for making this happen!