California to 'whipsaw' between drought, floods: study

April 23, 2018 by Mariëtte Le Roux
Scientists warn that California will experience more extreme weather events, including droughts and floods, if global fossil fuel consumption continues unaltered

California will zigzag between droughts and floods which will become more intense and more frequent in the coming decades unless global emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases are checked, researchers said Monday.

The Golden State has already experienced a rapid rise in such "whiplash" events—careering from a record multi-year drought between 2012 and 2016, to heavy flooding in the winter of 2016-17.

The situation will worsen as the global climate alters due to mankind's voracious burning of coal, oil, and gas for energy, a team wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change.

They projected that wet-to-dry extremes in California may double under a worst-case scenario in which continue growing until 2100 instead of the urgent reduction scientists say our planet needs.

Such unfettered emissions would lead to average global warming far exceeding the ceiling of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) set out in the Paris Agreement concluded by the world's nations in 2015.

A recent analysis said national pledges made under the pact slow emissions, but still put the world on track for warming of 3C or more—dangerous, but lower than the outlier scenario used for the study.

Based on their models, the researchers projected a 25-percent rise in the frequency of so-called whiplash events for northern California this century, and up to 100 percent in the south of the state.

A disaster on the scale of the 1862 "Great Flood" was likely to occur at least once between now and 2060 and would "probably lead to considerable loss of life and economic damages approaching a trillion dollars," said the study.

Multiple such events were "plausible" until 2100.

Serious challenge

California, like other regions with a Mediterranean climate, enjoys dry summers and wet winters and is prone to dramatic swings between drought and flood.

In 2017, after a years-long dry period, the state endured months of heavy rain that damaged hundreds of roads and contributed to the failure of the Oroville Dam that forced the emergency evacuation of nearly a quarter-of-a-million people.

A whiplash future as projected in the study would "seriously challenge" California's water storage, conveyance, and flood control infrastructure, the authors said.

"Few of the dams, levees and canals that currently protect millions living in California's plains and facilitate the movement of water from Sierra Nevada watersheds to coastal cities have been tested by a deluge as severe" as the Great Flood, they wrote.

Another paper, published in the same journal, warned that average global warming of 3 C over pre-industrial levels will double the total drought-prone area of Europe from 13 percent to 26 percent.

If warming can be contained to 1.5 C, the lower aspirational target outlined in the Paris Agreement, this is reduced to 19 percent, it said.

There was bad news for Africa too.

In a third publication, also in Nature Climate Change, researchers said limiting warming to 1.5 C rather than 2 C promised "considerable benefits in terms of minimising heat extremes and their associated socio-economic impacts across Africa."

But it won't remove the risk altogether.

Explore further: As Paris mops up, warning of more floods in Europe's future

More information: Daniel L. Swain et al. Increasing precipitation volatility in twenty-first-century California, Nature Climate Change (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0140-y

L. Samaniego et al. Anthropogenic warming exacerbates European soil moisture droughts, Nature Climate Change (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0138-5

Shingirai Nangombe et al. Record-breaking climate extremes in Africa under stabilized 1.5 °C and 2 °C global warming scenarios, Nature Climate Change (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0145-6

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grandpa
1 / 5 (9) Apr 23, 2018
There are way too many variables in the world to make a prediction this specific. All we can really tell is that the world will generally be warmer and plants will grow better. Beyond this it is a worse prediction than a Ouija board.
TrollBane
4.9 / 5 (7) Apr 23, 2018
'There are way too many variables in the world to make a prediction this specific.' No matter how many variables there are, it's easy to predict that grandpa will come along with the usual denier talking points and distortions, while hypocritically painting others as unscientific. See above.
Shootist
1.3 / 5 (4) Apr 23, 2018
California will zigzag between droughts and floods which will become more intense and more frequent in the coming decades unless global emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases are checked,

LOLOL

You worried? Paint all artifical sky facing surfaces white. Plant more trees.

OH! And stop those who think for you from flying charter jets to remote paradises to have "climate summits".
betterexists
1 / 5 (4) Apr 23, 2018
Water is PRECIOUS; California has 8 Volcanoes and it has awful lot of sea shore ! So, it should connect sea to these volcanoes. Whenever there is drought, they will have clouds and rains ! Quite simple. It beats Hyperloops where you have to dig underground for vehicles. https://www.seatt...6331.php
betterexists
1 / 5 (4) Apr 23, 2018
Water is PRECIOUS; California has 8 Volcanoes and it has awful lot of sea shore ! So, it should connect sea to these volcanoes. Whenever there is drought, they will have clouds and rains ! Quite simple. It beats Hyperloops where you have to dig underground for vehicles. https://www.seatt...6331.php

This is another way to grab the heat (i.e Energy in the Volcano). If the Volcano becomes Saline, WHO CARES. It is aready Trashed by Humans. USELESS Place. Eyesore !
betterexists
1 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2018
Water is PRECIOUS; California has 8 Volcanoes and it has awful lot of sea shore ! So, it should connect sea to these volcanoes. Whenever there is drought, they will have clouds and rains ! Quite simple. It beats Hyperloops where you have to dig underground for vehicles. https://www.seatt...6331.php

Throughout Cascade Range to Southern California, U.S West Coast is home to most of the country's highest-threat volcanoes. Mount Shasta tops USGS's list of very-high threat volcanoes in California.
nrauhauser
5 / 5 (5) Apr 23, 2018
Reading the comments on climate articles here is like stopping to chat up one of the street mumblers outside the McDonald's on M street in D.C. Entertaining ... but essentially incomprehensible.

The whiplash is already here, it's real, and it's terrifying for those of us who live here. I watched the Atlas Fire pyrocumulus cloud out my window for ten days last year, had to go across the valley and help friends pack. The record spring rains of 2017 led to record fires that fall.
Tom_Andersen
1 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2018
So - 1862:

If it happens once between now and 2060, is that not just normal behaviour? Statisically - yes. Let's not let facts get in the way of fear mongering.

https://en.wikipe..._of_1862

The Great Flood of 1862 was the largest flood in the recorded history of Oregon, Nevada, and California, occurring from December 1861 to January 1862. It was preceded by weeks of continuous rains and snows in the very high elevations that began in Oregon in November 1861 and continued into January 1862. This was followed by a record amount of rain from January 9–12, and contributed to a flood that extended from the Columbia River southward in western Oregon, and through California to San Diego, and extended as far inland as Idaho in the Washington Territory, Nevada and Utah in the Utah Territory, and Arizona in the western New Mexico Territory. Immense snowfalls in the mountains of the far western United States caused more flooding ...
barakn
5 / 5 (2) Apr 25, 2018
Time between 1862 and now = 156 years.
Time between now and 2060 = 42 years.
Looks to me like they are predicting an increase in the frequency of these large flood events, statistically, and Tom_Anderson's argument amounts to a pair of asscheeks flapping in the wind.

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