California is home to extreme weather, too

November 2, 2012
California is home to extreme weather, too
Satellite images show just how big Hurricane Sandy was when it made landfall in New Jersey.

California isn't going to face a superstorm like Hurricane Sandy because the Pacific Ocean is too cold to feed that kind of weather system.

But that doesn't mean California won't see , say researchers from the University of California, Merced.

"We can see very big storms, and there are a couple of issues related to climate change to think about," said Roger Bales, director of the Research Institute. "Most of our biggest storms are snow storms, which builds up snowpack in the mountains. The snowpack is a reservoir, storing that will be used throughout the year across the state.

"But if you warm the climate," he said, "those storms become rain events – there's more immediate runoff, less , and the rain will actually melt some of the existing snowpack."

The worst-case winter scenario would be a series of storms that cause flooding, said James Brotherton, warning-coordination meteorologist for the in Hanford.

"We definitely have the potential to be impacted by major , or a series of them," Brotherton said.

"It's not uncommon during the winter, at least once, that we will see storms coming off the Pacific and drop more than 100 inches of snow in the mountains over short durations," said project scientist and lecturer Robert Rice, with SNRI. "That could translate into 10 inches of precipitable water – numbers similar to what they're measuring in Hurricane Sandy. Snow events, which we commonly see in the Sierra, and across the western U.S., are generally unheard of on the East Coast, even during Hurricane Sandy, or a Nor'easter."

There have been years when what's commonly called The Pineapple Express – a persistent, strong flow of coming from the area near Hawaii – has pummeled the West Coast. Those kinds of "atmospheric rivers" historically caused problems in California, flooding Sacramento and the Central Valley. But land use has changed dramatically from the last time that was a problem – in the 1800s – and California has much more control of its waterways, Brotherton said.

"We have very large storms that cross into California and affect our region – not with the same widespread damage as Hurricane Sandy, but with water and wind that are comparable to hurricanes and tornados," Rice said.

Rice cited a storm over the last weekend of November 2011 that included a wind event similar to a Category 3 tornado or Category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds higher than 100 mph and gusts of more than 150 mph.

"These storms would be very destructive and costly to urban areas," Rice said, "and they are more frequent than most people imagine. Not much attention is focused on them because they rarely affect large urban populations, more often being restricted to the Sierra."

While scientists say it's impossible to attribute a single storm to , the overall weather patterns across the U.S. are changing as the oceans warm.

UC Merced researchers have repeatedly pointed out that California is likely to experience an increase in wildfires because of warmer temperatures.

Because the state depends on snowpack in the mountains for its year-round water supply – and if the state sees less snow and more rain, as Bales has written – it's going to be even more critical that the state be able to accurately understand what its available water resources are each year.

Bales, Rice and UC Merced and UC Berkeley colleagues have designed a low-cost senor system that could be used as to monitor water and snowpack statewide.

They advocate for a unified system that would help maintain control of water resources more efficiently, and give users a clearer, real-time picture of the state's water resources.

This year, forecasters aren't sure what the winter will look like because a weak El Niño climate pattern is in place across the southern Pacific this year.

"A strong El Niño means Northern California and the Pacific Northwest have a greater chance of below-normal precipitation, Southern California and the Southwest have a greater chance of above-average precipitation, and the center of the state has equal chances of either," Bales said. "But with a weak El Niño or neutral condition, either above or below normal conditions could prevail across the state."

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Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (8) Nov 02, 2012
Climate change climate change climate change climate change climate change climate change climate change climate change climate change climate change climate change climate change climate change climate change climate change climate change climate change climate change climate change climate change.

Gets old, doesn't it?
1 / 5 (6) Nov 02, 2012
Does CA have disaster envy?
5 / 5 (2) Nov 02, 2012
ScooTard seems to dislike change.

Poor boy.

RyggTard on the other hand is just as confused as always.
4.2 / 5 (5) Nov 02, 2012
Does CA have disaster envy?

"RyggTard on the other hand is just as confused as always."

*facepalm, head shaking*

Yes Rygg...disaster envy, because California doesn't experience them.
3.9 / 5 (7) Nov 02, 2012
Gets old, doesn't it?

Funny isn't it, the way every discipline all over the world is seeing the same thing. What gets really old, is people like scooter that can't pull their heads out of their, erm, sand long enough to look around and see what's happening.
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 02, 2012
At least Scooter is now using the correct term: "Climate Change"
in place of "Global Warming". So I'll give him some credit.
1 / 5 (5) Nov 02, 2012
At least Scooter is now using the correct term: "Climate Change"
in place of "Global Warming". So I'll give him some credit.

And when has climate NOT been changing?
5 / 5 (4) Nov 02, 2012
And when has climate NOT been changing?

And when has your mother last given birth? Your question is ridiculous given the point... how rapidly will climate change effect the human condition?

I think that effect is obvious to even the most uneducated, it is effecting us now. You deniers just seem to love fallacy that these weather extremes are natural common everyday 100 year events.

Well, correction for you. These 100 year events are occurring a lot more often then they used to! In the case of the NJ hurricane, its obvious that a H-pressure zone created a blocking force from the warming and melting Greenland land mass. It is very global warming related.
4 / 5 (3) Nov 02, 2012
Last Friday at 2:04 pm.

"And when has climate NOT been changing?" - RyggTard

When haven't people been dying?

3 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2012
In the case of the NJ hurricane, its obvious that a H-pressure zone created a blocking force from the warming and melting Greenland land mass. It is very global warming related.

NO professional climatologist or meteorologist would support this statement. The blocking high you refer to is unrelated to any "warming and melting" of the greenland ice cap. Reckless statements like this only serve to undermine climate science and give the "deniers" more ammo to use against us.
1 / 5 (2) Nov 04, 2012
To say California is a land of extremes, is an understatement.

California is unique in that it has virtually every type of gobal climate region, in a relatively small area.

Dodge Trucks recently ran ads specific to Calaifornia featuring some of California's varying climates.

So yeah, California's weather can be very interesting (to say the least). Recently, California hosted tornadoes!

1.8 / 5 (5) Nov 04, 2012
These 100 year events are occurring a lot more often then they used to!

And this is based upon a 200 years of data with much uncertainty in the first 100 years.
The probability of getting a heads is .5 when flipping a coin, but how likely will you get HTHTHT.....? Not likely.
It seems more likely the '100 year events' are poorly defined.
2 / 5 (4) Nov 04, 2012
"One of the more misleading phrases used in meteorology and hydrology is 100-year storm. The phrase implies that an intense rainstorm dubbed as an 100-year event, dropped rainfall totals heretofore unseen for 100 years, and not to be experienced again for another century. This is a logical, but incorrect conclusion to draw from the phrase. More precisely worded, a 100-year storm drops rainfall totals that had a one percent probability of occurring at that location that year. Encountering a 100-year storm on one day does nothing to change the probability of receiving the same amount of precipitation the very next day."
2 / 5 (4) Nov 04, 2012
"The term "100-year flood" is misleading because it leads people to believe that it happens only once every 100 years. The truth is that an uncommonly big flood can happen any year. The term "100-year flood" is really a statistical designation, and there is a 1-in-100 chance that a flood this size will happen during any year. Perhaps a better term would be the "1-in-100 chance flood."

The actual number of years between floods of any given size varies a lot. Big floods happen irregularly because the climate naturally varies over many years. We sometimes get big floods in successive or nearly successive years with several very wet years in a row."
1 / 5 (3) Nov 04, 2012
The Great Hurricane of '38
" Because the hurricane was also moving in the same direction, the forward speed added to the already powerful winds. Eastern Long Island and New England would later be hit with wind speeds that exceeded 180 mph! "

The late 30s weather patterns, and political patterns are strikingly similar.
2012-1938=74 years.
"The power spectrum of central England temperature record for the period 1700-1950 showing
notable 76 year periodicity related to Wolf-Gleissberg cycle among other periodicities. (Figure
extracted from Burroughs 1992 after Mason 1976 )"
Shahinaz M. Yousef
Astronomy &Meteorology Dept.
Faculty of Science -Cairo University"

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