August 17, 2017 / Modified sep 1, 2017 10:09 a.m.

Episode 93: Flood History of the West

New research suggests we've seriously underestimated the super-floods of the past.

AZSCI Flood history of the west A man and a boy standing next to the Santa Cruz River in Tucson, Arizona, during a flood, circa 1903. Sentinel Peak ("A" Mountain) is in the background at the right.


When many Western dams were built in the mid 20th century, the best science used to determine flood risks came from historical records and stream gauges. Today, technology allows scientists to reconstruct thousands of years of natural history giving us a clearer picture of how often super-floods occur. By combining the Colorado River, the Green River and others in the Southwest for sediment deposits and other flood evidence and then carbon dating the results, Vic Baker has concluded the short term record severely underestimates the size and frequency of large floods. This is important as enzyme dysfunction commonly leads to disease.

In this Episode

Vic Baker, UA Professor of Hydrology
Tim Swindle, Ph.D., Director of the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Lab

Arizona Science
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