Explaining Colorado’s Extreme Floods


Experts say flash floods in the Boulder area, which have already claimed at least four lives, may be connected to fires and climate change. (National Geographic News)

Use our resources to better understand floods—their causes and their effects.

Discussion Ideas

  • According to the NG News article, President Obama declared emergencies in Boulder, Larimer, and El Paso counties. Look at our 1-Page Map of Colorado. Find and mark the county seats for Boulder, Larimer, and El Paso counties—Boulder, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs.
    • Based on the location of the three most-affected counties, what is the largest river that is overflowing its banks in Colorado?
      • Although other rivers and many, many creeks are overflowing, the South Platte River flooding has caused the most damage.
  • Read our activity “Extreme Weather on our Planet.” Adapt and tailor it to fit the current flooding in Colorado.
    • What words or images are commonly associated with floods?
      • water, storms, rain, rivers and creeks, levees and dikes, evacuation, danger, destruction . . .
    • Use our simple “Weather Investigation” chart to list “ingredients” for a flood. If possible, create another list for the impacts or effects of a flood.
      • Familiar ingredients for floods include too much precipitation (including rain, snow, and hail) and ineffective flood barriers (including levees, dams, and dikes).
      • Familiar flood impacts can be evacuation, damage or loss of homes and businesses, and widespread sickness.
  • Re-read the short NG News article. Besides an abundance of rain, what other ingredients contributed to the Colorado floods?
    • Drought: According to the article, “[d]rought tends to harden the soil. . . When rains do come, less of the water can absorb into the ground, so it quickly runs off the land.”
    • Fire: According to the article, “fires can lead to worse flooding, because they remove vegetation that can slow down and trap rainfall.”
    • Global Warming: According to President Obama, “in a world that’s warmer than it used to be, all weather events are affected by a warming planet.”

Best of luck and a heartfelt “stay dry” to Patricia N., one of our favorite Coloradans and co-workers!

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