MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota has seen the damage floodwaters can cause. However, our understanding is limited on how often these floods occur.
"What we are trying to do is we are trying to look beyond 150 years using these records in cave deposits and go back 1,000 or 10,000 years and say what is the long term history of flooding in the region," said Joshua Feinberg. Associate Professor, University of Minnesota.
They are doing that by looking in caves. Inside a cave is an eerie scene of stalagmites erupting from the floor and stalactites hanging from the ceiling. Working with scientists in China, researchers at the University of Minnesota determined that we can see a detailed past of flooding.
"They record a really detailed record of what's happening with these precipitation cycles how often it rains and how often it floods." said Feinberg.
When floodwaters are gone, minerals are left behind. Using magnetometers and other tools, researchers in China can look for trace amounts of iron in these caves and determine when it flooded in the past. U of M researchers there say the same idea should work in caves in here.
"We are using caves in southeastern Minnesota to learn all about flooding habits along the Minnesota and Mississippi river basins as well," said Feinberg.
Looking at this stalagmite from a Minnesota cave, each white line is like a tree ring, it tells us that something happened when it formed thousands of years ago.