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Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5085

Prepared in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Highway Research Board (Project HR-140)

Summary of U.S. Geological Survey Reports Documenting Flood Profiles of Streams in Iowa, 1963–2012

By David A. Eash

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (1.04 MB)Abstract

This report is part of an ongoing program that is publishing flood profiles of streams in Iowa. The program is managed by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Highway Research Board (Project HR-140). Information from flood profiles is used by engineers to analyze and design bridges, culverts, and roadways. This report summarizes 47 U.S. Geological Survey flood-profile reports that were published for streams in Iowa during a 50-year period from 1963 to 2012. Flood events profiled in the reports range from 1903 to 2010. Streams in Iowa that have been selected for the preparation of flood-profile reports typically have drainage areas of 100 square miles or greater, and the documented flood events have annual exceedance probabilities of less than 2 to 4 percent. This report summarizes flood-profile measurements, changes in flood-profile report content throughout the years, streams that were profiled in the reports, the occurrence of flood events profiled, and annual exceedance-probability estimates of observed flood events. To develop flood profiles for selected flood events for selected stream reaches, the U.S. Geological Survey measured high-water marks and river miles at selected locations.

A total of 94 stream reaches have been profiled in U.S. Geological Survey flood-profile reports. Three rivers in Iowa have been profiled along the same stream reach for five different flood events and six rivers in Iowa have been profiled along the same stream reach for four different flood events. Floods were profiled for June flood events for 18 different years, followed by July flood events for 13 years, May flood events for 11 years, and April flood events for 9 years.

Most of the flood-profile reports include estimates of annual exceedance probabilities of observed flood events at streamgages located along profiled stream reaches. Comparisons of 179 historic and updated annual exceedance-probability estimates indicate few differences that are considered substantial between the historic and updated estimates for the observed flood events. Overall, precise comparisons for 114 observed flood events indicate that updated annual exceedance probabilities have increased for most of the observed flood events compared to the historic annual exceedance probabilities. Multiple large flood events exceeding the 2-percent annual exceedance-probability discharge estimate occurred at 37 of 98 selected streamgages during 1960–2012. Five large flood events were recorded at two streamgages in Ames during 1990–2010 and four large flood events were recorded at four other streamgages during 1973–2010. Results of Kendall’s tau trend-analysis tests for 35 of 37 selected streamgages indicate that a statistically significant trend is not evident for the 1963–2012 period of record; nor is an overall clear positive or negative trend evident for the 37 streamgages.

First posted June 25, 2014

For additional information, contact:
Director, Iowa Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
P.O. Box 1230
Iowa City, IA 52244

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Suggested citation:

Eash, D.A., 2014, Summary of U.S. Geological Survey reports documenting flood profiles of streams in Iowa, 1963–2012: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5085, 32 p.,

ISSN 2328-031X (print)

ISSN 2328-0328 (online)





Flood-Profile Measurements

Flood-Profile Reports


References Cited

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