Jul 17, 2019 | Updated: 11:17 AM EDT

Super Floods Cannot Be Underestimated, May Wash Over West's Aging Dams: Scientists Warn

Mar 07, 2017 12:00 PM EST

Flooding In San Jose, California Forces Evacuation Of Over 10,000
(Photo : Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images) SAN JOSE, CA - FEBRUARY 22: People look at cars and homes engulfed in floodwaters on February 22, 2017 in San Jose, California. Flooding on Tuesday prompted the evacuation of over 10,000 people in the area.

Scientists warn that super floods will be more common than previously assumed. It is a great threat to communities near the Oroville Dam and others in Colorado, California.

Oroville Dam, nation's tallest dam nearly buckled under the pressure of record rainfall in early February. That proves that dams aren't built to resist every calamity and it can be damaged by super floods.

Many Western dams were built in the mid-20th century. As written in High Country News, today, technology allows scientists to reconstruct thousands of years of natural history that gives a much clearer picture of how often super floods occur.

As written in Newsweek, by carbon-dating the results of sediment deposits and other flood evidence of Colorado river, Green river and other rivers in Southwest, the short-term record severely underestimates the size and frequency of super floods. On the Upper Colorado near Moab and Utah, the estimated average 500-year flood is roughly 246,000 cubic feet per second that are more than double of 112, 000 cubic feet per second that scientists estimated.

These reports are generated by Victor Baker who is a paleohydrologist of the University of Arizona. He uses the similar techniques used by Minoura's to study the flood history of the Colorado Plateau. A super flood may be more common in California too than previously thought.

"We may have some similar things occurring in the US if we don't seriously pay attention to this science," Baker says. Superfloods can damage big and it could come out of nowhere. Here is an example to understand the power of it.

Minoura concluded the possibility of another tsunami in 2001 but Tokyo Electric Power was slow to respond to the science, leaving the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant unprepared for the 15-meter wave that inundated it in 2011. It resulted in $188 B natural disaster and more than 20,000 people died.

Officials from the Bureau of Reclamation believes that Glen Canyon is equipped to handle the super flood. But Baker believes that they should create contingency plans for the possible failure of some of the West's biggest dams.

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