The Mississippi Drought Defined: Why Is the River Drying Up?

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The Mississippi River is at the moment experiencing a historic drought, leading to report low water ranges in a number of areas. What’s extra, riverbeds are drying up in entrance of his greater than 20 million individuals who use their each day ingesting water equipped with the assistance of the Mississippi River.

Nevertheless, the scenario is dire throughout the US. About 80% of the nation’s floor experiences irregular to reasonable aridity. Throughout the county he’s experiencing D4 degree drought, with some areas experiencing excessive and weird drought.

The important thing questions for the 20 million Individuals above are: Why is the Mississippi River drying up??I am right here to offer some perception on this matter.?

The place does the Mississippi River get its water from?

The supply of the Mississippi River originates from Lake Itasca in Clearwater County in northern Minnesota.

© Tomaz Kunst/

The river’s supply comes from Lake Itasca in Clearwater County in northern Minnesota. This place is named the standard supply of the river. Related to the subject at hand is drought ranges in Minnesota.

At the moment, 16% of the state is experiencing extreme drought and roughly 50% are experiencing reasonable or extreme drought. Traditionally talking, Minnesota’s drought ranges in 2022 would be the identical as in 2021 (really, barely worse).

As for Clearwater County, reasonable drought hits 30% of its land floor. The issue is that 30% of it (positioned within the southern a part of the county) consists of Lake Itasca, the supply of the Mississippi River. From a historic standpoint, the scenario may very well be even worse. Across the identical time, in 2021, about half of Clearwater County will expertise a extreme drought ( Drought Severity and Protection Index About 100 factors extra registered final yr).

However whereas the Minnesota drought is one explanation for dry rivers, it is not the primary trigger.

How do tributaries have an effect on river ranges?

Freshwater streams that circulation into the Mississippi River are known as tributaries. The Mississippi River has greater than 250 tributaries, every of which contributes to its quantity of water. Statistics present that the Ohio and Missouri rivers are main tributaries, alongside the Arkansas, Illinois and Crimson rivers.

Keep in mind, the Mississippi River basin is the biggest in the US, together with its tributaries.

As for drought, listed here are the place the primary tributaries of the river stand:

  • Ohio River – River ranges are dropping, primarily as a result of lack of rainfall in late 2022. On the identical time, the Ohio River flows by means of the Midwest area and is primarily influenced by the Midwest. to extreme drought. The Ohio River utterly dried up in 1908;
  • Missouri River – Over 90% of Missouri’s river basins are unusually dry, in line with statistics. On the identical time, a lot of Missouri, the place the rivers cross, is experiencing an unusually extreme drought. Once more, one of many major causes is the shortage of rain.

That is one more reason for drought on the Mississippi River, as two main tributaries of the Mississippi River are in drought circumstances. Briefly, the Mississippi River is not receiving as a lot water because it usually does.

However drought circumstances are widespread in the US. As such, report low water ranges shouldn’t be achieved. Which means that we now have but to get an introduction to why the Mississippi River is drying up.

Why is the Mississippi River drying up?

One of many major causes the Mississippi River is drying up is local weather change.

©Ralf Broskvar/

The huge drought that’s at the moment stalking a lot of the western United States is essentially as a result of excessive temperatures, implicitly attributed to world warming. The second largest purpose is the shortage of rain. About 60% of the US land floor (about 87% of the western US) will likely be hit by a drought in he 2023, and sure research present that the mega-drought may final till 2030.

So one of many major causes the Mississippi River is drying up is local weather change. For instance, California is a state whose drought is solely brought on by world warming. In distinction, the Mississippi River lacks rainfall from its tributaries and a major quantity of water.

Statistics present that about 40% of the severity of megadroughts might be attributed to local weather change. The latter additionally influenced how soil moisture is restored by precipitation. Over the past 22 years, a lot of the US has skilled heavy rainfall, however as temperatures rose, it wasn’t sufficient for the soil to regain moisture.

Knowledge present that sure areas of the US territory have been poor in moisture because the early twentieth century. damp yr 2017, 2010, 2005.

Mississippi River historic low

Information circulating on the finish of October talked about that the Tennessee part of the river had dropped to a whopping -10.75 ft. That is the bottom water degree ever recorded. Talking of lows, that is the bottom water degree on report for the Mississippi River.

  • On January 16, 1940, the St. Louis gauge hit a report low of -6.10 ft.
  • On February 10, 1937, the Memphis, Tennessee gauge reached a report low of -10.70 ft. Right now, we recorded a water degree of -10.75 ft on the finish of October 2022, so this isn’t the bottom water degree on report (as talked about above).
  • The Greenville, Mississippi gauge hit a report low of 6.70 ft on February 4, 1964.

As you’ll be able to see, it has been fairly a while because the Mississippi River hit a report low. For Memphis Gage, it took about 85 years to interrupt the report, so to talk.

At the moment, Memphis water gauges are nonetheless experiencing report low water ranges. In mid-January 2023, the gauge was -8/73 ft, the fourth lowest on report.