February 29, 2024

Catastrophic Flooding in Yellowstone – Historic Destruction of Homes, Roads, and Bridges

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASAs Terra satellite recorded these images comparing snowpack on June 16, 2022, to the snowpack on the same date in 2021.
The left map reveals soil wetness conditions in between May 30 and June 5, 2021, when the state was experiencing more severe dry spell conditions. The image at right reveals soil moisture conditions from May 31 to June 6, 2022, just prior to the rainfall.
At Corwin Springs, north of Gardiner, Montana, the Yellowstone River crested at 13.88 feet on June 13, 2022, breaking the previous record of 11.5 feet set on June 14, 1918. On June 22, 2022, the west, south, and east entrances were re-opened along with the southern loop road, offering visitors access to Old Faithful.

” This resulted in flooding rarely or never ever seen before throughout numerous area rivers and streams,” according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Billings, Montana.
June 16, 2021– June 16, 2022
On June 13, park authorities closed Yellowstone– which covers 2.2 million acres (8,900 square kilometers) in northwest Wyoming, southwest Montana, and eastern Idaho– and announced the evacuation of more than 10,000 visitors due to security concerns. Campsites were flooded, roads were rinsed, and rocks tumbled onto roads.
Despite a slow start to the 2021– 2022 water year, a cool, wet spring brought much-needed water to the area, which has been experiencing drought conditions. In April, greater than typical rainfall in the Yellowstone basin helped develop the snowpack on the ground, which had increased to nearly the 30-year average by May. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASAs Terra satellite captured these images comparing snowpack on June 16, 2022, to the snowpack on the same date in 2021.
Between June 10 and 13, the Absaroka and Beartooth varies received in between 0.8 and 5 inches of rain, which integrated with 2 to almost 5 inches of snowmelt, according to the Billings NWS. The combined rain and snowmelt, comparable to 4 to 9 inches (10 to 22 centimeters) of rain, streamed over currently moist soils.
Might 30, 2021– June 6, 2022
The maps above reveal the soil wetness anomaly in northern Wyoming and southern Montana throughout the week before the storm. The maps were developed with information from the Crop Condition and Soil Moisture Analytics (Crop-CASMA) product. Crop-CASMA incorporates measurements from NASAs Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite and plants indices from the MODIS instruments on NASAs Terra and Aqua satellites. The left map reveals soil wetness conditions in between May 30 and June 5, 2021, when the state was experiencing more extreme drought conditions. The image at right reveals soil wetness conditions from May 31 to June 6, 2022, right before the rains.
The runoff deluged the Yellowstone, Stillwater, and Clarks Fork rivers and their tributaries. At Corwin Springs, north of Gardiner, Montana, the Yellowstone River crested at 13.88 feet on June 13, 2022, breaking the previous record of 11.5 feet set on June 14, 1918. A record river discharge of 51,400 cubic feet per second was also measured that day, breaking the previous record-high flow of 32,200 cubic feet per second in 1996, according to U.S. Geological Survey stream evaluates.
North of the park, Gardiner and Cooke City were separated by the increasing floodwaters, which washed-out roads and bridges, swept away several homes, and flooded hundreds more. Rock Creek secured several bridges and flooded organizations in the historic downtown of Red Lodge, Montana. The flooding likewise caused power interruptions and jeopardized drinking water products in several towns.
The northern part of the park, where the river flows through high canyons, suffered the a lot of damage as the Yellowstone River cut a new course. The roadway in between Gardiner and the park headquarters near Mammoth Hot Springs, a primary supply path into the park, was rinsed and it is expected to take months to repair.
The southern part of the park saw less damage from the flooding. On June 22, 2022, the west, south, and east entrances were re-opened together with the southern loop road, providing visitors access to Old Faithful. The north and northeast entrances to the park are closed indefinitely.
NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using soil moisture data from Crop Condition and Soil Moisture Analytics (Crop-CASMA) and MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS LANCE and GIBS/Worldview.

Yellowstone National Park has experienced historical flooding, with rivers cresting at heights not seen in 100 years.
Snowmelt and heavy rain triggered traditionally high water in Yellowstone National Park that damaged homes, roads, and bridges, and separated a few of the national forests gateway communities.
This year has actually been historic for Yellowstone National Park in more methods than one. Founded in 1872, Americas very first national forest is commemorating its 150th anniversary. It also endured extraordinary flooding, with rivers cresting at heights not seen in 100 years.
In the second week of June 2022, an atmospheric river– a narrow band of tropical wetness– soaked the Pacific Northwest before discarding several inches of rain on northern Wyoming and southern Montana. The inundation accompanied a warm spell that intensified melting of the heavy snowpack.

By Sara E. Pratt, NASA Earth Observatory
June 24, 2022