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What is the California Megastorm That is Threatening the U.S.?

What is the California Megastorm, and what could climate change mean for the future of this populous U.S. state?
Ecology News
2023-07-26T00:00:00.000Z
en-us
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In California, everyone is always preoccupied with a potential earthquake. Spending some of my childhood growing up in the Bay Area, we spent time learning how to protect ourselves if an earthquake were to occur.

But did you know that climate change could completely alter the weather conditions California will need to worry about?

Despite being known for its prevalent fault lines, copious droughts, and frequent wildfires – California could be set to face an unprecedented megastorm in the coming years.

What is the current climate in California?

California is a massive state, and therefore – many forget that the climate can vary across the 1040 mile long state. In general, California is infamous for its good weather and lack of disastrous thunderstorms, humidity, or hurricanes.

However, it’s important to note that California is a massive state that offers nearly any kind of climate or topography that one could want. From rainforests in the north, to dry deserts in the middle, snowy mountains in Lake Tahoe or the mountains or the warm water on the coasts – California is known for its diverse climate, which allows tourists and residents alike to enjoy a variety of vacation options without traveling too far. This is one of the many reasons why California is so popular amongst foreign travelers, as they can get a taste of several different aspects of the U.S. in a single state.

Therefore, the weather in California can drastically differ depending on where in the state you are. For instance, in San Francisco – the summers are known to remain gray and foggy, while Los Angeles is known for its year-round sunshine and warm winters.

👉 Throughout the state of California, rainfall is known to be sparse. That’s why the potential California mega storm would prove jarring to any natives or residents of the state.

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What is the California Megastorm?

Being coined across the media as, “The Big One”, the California mega storm is a massive flood that could happen in California anytime within the next four decades due to climate change.

Even more shocking, given the current climate in California, climate experts have said that this could be a rainstorm no one on Earth will have ever seen before in their lifetime.

The California mega storm would bring a vast amount of rainfall that California hasn’t seen in over a hundred years, marking it quite the departure from the state’s current climate – and makes it hard for natives of the state to digest this potential weather threat.

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Wouldn’t the storm be good, as California has had so many wildfires and droughts in the last century?

You would think given the incessant droughts and wildfires that California has seen over the last fifteen years, that a mega storm would actually do the state some good. It makes sense, right? A lot of rainfall would balance out the excessive dry climate and need for freshwater? Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

👉 The mega storm, while seemingly a blessing to the dry state, would do an extensive amount of harm to California. Floods will destroy homes, local communities, agricultural lands vital to the country’s economy and food supply, and potentially – even lives.

California could use some rain, but the state isn’t built to handle a mega storm like the one climate experts are predicting.

How will the California Megastorm impact the state?

No part of California will remain completely unharmed by the mega storm, but some areas of the state are likely to be more impacted than others.

Some parts of California most likely to suffer deleterious consequences of the storm include the Central Valley, Sacramento, Fresno and Bakersfield.

If these areas of California are damaged due to the megastorm, how will it impact the rest of the state?

Many of the effects of the California mega storm are likely to be long-term.

Food industry

For instance, the Central Valley of California is responsible for nearly a quarter of the entire United States’s food supply. As California is known for good, year long weather – the state is able to produce crops year round that many other climates in the United States are not able to do.

So, if this area of California were to flood, it would impact the food industry for the entire country – and this wouldn’t just be in the short-term.

If the overall weather patterns of California are subject to change due to climate change, then the entire country could be scrambling to establish a new source of land suitable for crop development.

However, as excessive carbon emissions continue to alter the world’s natural resources and weather patterns – a new place to set up camp for produce is unlikely to occur. In other words, California is one of the country’ greatest assets, and if its land becomes infertile – all Americans will feel the effects of the mega storm.

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Economy

Besides providing for the rest of Americans, the economic impact of the mega flood in California would be a fiscal nightmare.

👉 The mega storm could very well be the most expensive natural disaster to happen yet, and could cost nearly $1 trillion to cope with the loss of California's lowlands – such as Los Angeles and Orange County.

To put into perspective just how catastrophic the mega storm’s damage would be, the mega storm would cost more than five times the amount of money that was necessary for the repairs after Hurricane Katrina – which was one of the most devastating hurricanes in U.S. history.

Equipment issues

In short, California simply isn’t equipped to handle large amounts of rainfall, which could very well increase annually by five times the amount of rainfall California saw in 2016, 0.4 inches, to a whopping 1.9 inches by 2072.

Another imperative example is the Oroville Dam, which is a water facility north of Sacramento that was built in the 1960s in order to prevent atmospheric rivers from diluting the soil and rock underneath the emergency spillway of the dam.

During the last flood in February 2017, when it seemed the Oroville dam itself was going to collapse – many who lived in this part of California struggled to make it out alive. It took the state a year and a half after the disaster to rebuild the emergency spillway, but this shouldn’t have been the case.

California should have strived to have had that emergency spillway ready in the event of a disaster like the one that happened, and given the mega storm that could happen in the next forty years is expected to be like the one in Oroville on steroids – the state could be in for a lot of trouble.

The mega storm could, and should, employ California to prepare for the worst and hope for the best – rather than rebuilding the damage that’s already been done.

👉 The infrastructure, cities, and people aren’t prepared or educated enough on how to cope with the fallout of a massive rainstorm. This wouldn’t be like putting a frog into a boiling pot of water, where the frog would assimilate to the increasing temperature and remain in the water without knowing the difference. California, both its people and land, are bound to suffer the aftermath of a mega storm.

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If California has survived a mega storm before, why would this one be any different?

It’s true that California has survived a megastorm before. Back in the winter of 1861 and 1862, a massive megaflood resulted in nearly thirty feet of water in cities like San Joaquin and Sacramento.

These high levels of water lasted for weeks, and happened after a historic dry spell. Ironically, after all of that time wishing for a well-deserved rainfall – local communities in California were destroyed in seconds. Infrastructure, agricultural land, and towns all suffered the consequences of the mega storm.

For some, the megastorm that winter even resulted in death – with a total of four thousand casualties. And it wasn’t just the human population: twenty-five percent of the cattle population in California drowned or starved as a result of the megastorm.

The mega storm murdered California’s economy at the time; the state even went bankrupt whilst trying to repair the damage.

You may be wondering why a second megaflood in California would be a grave cause for concern considering the improved financial stability and general establishment of the state.

While California may be more financially stable and prepared to cover the costs of a disastrous storm, there are inevitably more people tied to a potential weather crisis than there were 150 years ago.

Only around five hundred thousand people lived in California during the mega storm of 1862, whereas nearly forty million people now reside in California. Therefore, the consequences of a mega storm would impact nearly eighty times the amount of people than it did back then.  

There is one thing that money can’t buy: a human life. A mega storm wouldn’t be a way for California to prove their success over the past century – it would only harm all that the state has worked so hard to establish.

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What can be done to prevent a mega storm in California?

Just like climate change, the chances of a megaflood are already here – and there is little that can be done to mitigate the storm from happening.

The only thing that can be done for the future, is for everyone to play their part in the fight against climate change as an attempt to reduce the potential impact or severity of future natural disasters. However, the good news is that California can prepare for the potential side effects of the megastorm in advance.

The most threatening part of a mega storm for California is how the mountainous terrain of the state makes it a hotspot for potential flooding. Also, the previous wildfires in the state have left steep cracks in the ground which would allow for water and debris to fill up in terrifying, substantial amounts that wouldn’t otherwise.

As long as global temperatures continue to rise, wildfires will continue to occur at more frequent and intense rates – and ultimately create even more of these pockets that will result in more long-term damage from future flooding.

An Earthquake can happen at any moment in time, which is why from a young age Californians are taught what to do should an earthquake strike. Whilst on the other hand, thankfully, a mega storm isn’t something that will happen at any moment's notice. Climate experts can make accurate predictions when a storm is about to hit, and while they can’t determine the severity – it’s still better than an unprecedented earthquake.

The only benefit to the potential megastorm is that California can’t prepare for an earthquake, but they do have some tricks up their sleeve to alleviate the aftermath of the “Big One”. In addition to climate experts and weather forecasters, artificial intelligence can help state officials determine where precipitation is likely to occur and plan the evacuation and emergency responses that will be necessary throughout the storm.

All in all, we can’t prevent the mega storm in California from happening. Luckily, we have the advanced technology and tools that allow us to better predict the consequences of the storm – but the most pivotal action any of us can take is to reduce our own emissions and prevent climate change from impacting the world more than it will currently continue to do so.

What about Greenly?

If reading this article about the California Megastorm has made you interested in reducing your carbon emission to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

Click here to learn more about Greenly and how we can help you reduce your carbon footprint.

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