The nine back-to-back storms that have pounded California augur a bleak future of ‘whiplash’ weather

California Code RED: the nine back-to-back storms that have pounded the Golden State augur a bleak future of ‘whiplash’ weather extremes of winter floods and drought-stricken summers

  • California has been battered by a series of ‘atmospheric river’ storms
  • The loss of 20 lives has stoked fears of more weather tragedy in the future  
  • Two studies suggest that climate change is creating more storms in California
  • It will see worse ‘whiplash’ weather, seesawing between floods and droughts
  • California’s Great Flood of 1862 stretched 300 miles long and 60 miles across 
  • Americans worry more about climate change, but don’t agree on taking action 

It’s home to 39 million people, and its thriving movie, tech and agriculture sectors buoy a $3.6 trillion economy that prompts some liberals to wonder whether it’s time to break away from the US.

But the nine atmospheric river storms that have battered California since late December have stoked fears of a bleak future of ‘whiplash’ weather, seesawing between winter floods and summer droughts.

A growing body of evidence suggests that climate change is man-made, real, and that California faces a front-line battle against floods, droughts, wildfires, mudslides and other deadly weather calamities for generations.

The environmental group, Greenpeace, warned that the power outages, flooding, levee breaks, washouts and landslides seen in recent days were ‘one likely symptom of the rollercoaster that is fossil-fueled climate change.’

The risk of a California megastorm event increases almost in line with global warming. Climate change to date has already doubled the risk relative to a century ago

The risk of a California megastorm event increases almost in line with global warming. Climate change to date has already doubled the risk relative to a century ago

The ‘dramatic shifts between extreme drought, fires, and floods’ seen in California were ‘dangerous and unsustainable,’ the group said.

A study published in 2018 in Nature Climate Change suggests that California could well endure 25-100 percent more ‘whiplash’ years, where the state switches quickly from a very dry summer to an extremely wet winter.

Researchers said that, as temperatures rise, the atmosphere can hold more water vapor. Thanks to global warming, air sucks up water from rivers, reservoirs and soil and then later dumps it out as precipitation.

Scientists at University of California, Los Angeles, last year said climate change was raising the risk of extreme, month-long storms and floods that could submerge whole cities and displace millions of people across the state.

Global warming had doubled the chances of a massive flood that would cost $1 trillion in damage, upend lives and submerge parts of LA and Sacramento, said Daniel Swain, a co-author of the report.

His study built upon that ARkStorm scenario, named after the ‘atmospheric rivers’ of moisture that could fuel a flood of biblical proportions, to take into account the effects of climate change.   

The lines on this graphic indicate how many megastorms California could endure each year under three climate change scenarios

The lines on this graphic indicate how many megastorms California could endure each year under three climate change scenarios  

Workers clear the remains of an old tree after it crashed down during a storm the previous night at a shopping center in Los Angeles, California, this week. The state has been hit with an ongoing series of what meteorologists call atmospheric rivers, bringing heavy rain, wind and widespread flooding

Workers clear the remains of an old tree after it crashed down during a storm the previous night at a shopping center in Los Angeles, California, this week. The state has been hit with an ongoing series of what meteorologists call atmospheric rivers, bringing heavy rain, wind and widespread flooding

Downtown Sacramento during the Great Flood of 1862. One-third of the state's taxable land was destroyed and Governor Leland Stanford was forced to row to his own inauguration

Downtown Sacramento during the Great Flood of 1862. One-third of the state’s taxable land was destroyed and Governor Leland Stanford was forced to row to his own inauguration

California has faced such massive flooding every century or two over the past millennia, and in 1862, before the state invested in flood mitigation technologies, a Great Flood stretched up to 300 miles long and 60 miles across.

In a video update this week, Swain said the latest storms would likely run up repair costs of ‘hundreds of millions’ of dollars.

Ipsos polls show Americans increasingly worry about the environment and climate, with the share of people calling it a top tier problem rising from 1 percent in 2012 to 8 percent last year.

While two thirds of respondents call for action, such as reducing planet-heating gases, the issue remains divisive. Republicans in general favor adjusting to climate change and not disrupting daily lives.

Robert Reich, a Ford-era Labor Secretary who is now a professor at University of California, Berkeley, said the ‘impassible’ flooded roads in his neighborhood and loss of life should be a wake-up call for action. 

Americans have grown increasingly concerned about the environment and climate, with the share of people seeing it as a top tier problem rising from 1 percent to 8 percent between 2012 and 2022

Americans have grown increasingly concerned about the environment and climate, with the share of people seeing it as a top tier problem rising from 1 percent to 8 percent between 2012 and 2022

Two thirds of respondents call for action, such as cutting emissions of planet-heating gases, but the issue remains divisive. Republicans in general favor adjusting to climate change and avoiding disruption to daily lives

Two thirds of respondents call for action, such as cutting emissions of planet-heating gases, but the issue remains divisive. Republicans in general favor adjusting to climate change and avoiding disruption to daily lives

‘Each climate calamity we endure is another learning opportunity for the nation to understand the existential threat of climate change and why we must take the lead in reversing it,’ he wrote.

President Joe Biden will travel to California’s central coast on Thursday to visit areas that have been devastated by the extreme weather that has claimed at least 20 lives.

A five-year-old boy remains missing after being swept out of his mother’s car by raging floodwaters in San Luis Obispo County.

Among the more dramatic images of storm damage were those of Highway 1, the scenic coastal highway near Big Sur, which was closed at several points because of mudslides and falling boulders strewn across the road.

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