Cal to Ride the Tiger: Climate Change Weather Extremes to Lash California


Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 24 April 2018

UPDATE
NEW WAPO ARTICLE ON TOPIC

 

MOTHER NATURE UNLEASHED

Cal to Ride the Tiger

Weather Extremes to Lash California

Increasing precipitation whiplash in twenty-first century California,
California Weather Blog, April 22, 2018.

 

BALANCE OF FUTURE EXTREMES
"...future changes in California’s overall average annual precipitation are likely to be fairly modest, even under rather extreme global warming scenarios."

"...these small shifts in average precipitation mask profound changes in the character of California precipitation. We find that the occurrence of both extreme wet and extreme dry events in California—and of rapid transitions between the two—will likely increase with atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. The rising risk of historically unprecedented precipitation extremes will seriously test California’s existing water storage, distribution, and flood protection infrastructure."

 

BACKGROUND
"...weather and climate extremes profoundly shaped the history of the Golden State, but there is considerable paleoclimate evidence that the region presently known as California has experienced great swings between wet and dry for thousands of years."

"California’s propensity toward meteorological extremes is key in understanding the kinds of changes that are likely to occur here in a warming world."

 

GOAL
"... set out to assess how the increasing emission of greenhouse gases will affect California precipitation. Rather than considering average precipitation, as most previous studies have, we instead focused on wet and dry precipitation extremes specifically using a large ensemble of climate model simulations."

 

RESULT
RADICAL FLOODING
"...most of California will likely experience a 100 – 200% increase in the frequency of very wet November-March “rainy seasons” similar to 2016-2017, which have historically occurred about four times per century."

 

RESULT
RADICAL DRYING
"...we also find that California will likely experience an increase of anywhere from 50% to 150% (highest in the south) in the frequency of very dry November-March periods similar to 1976-1977 (and only slightly drier than 2013-2014), which have historically occurred about once per century."

 

OH, AND MULTI-YEAR DROUGHTS
"On the other hand, there is already abundant evidence that rising temperatures themselves are increasing the likelihood and intensity of multi-year droughts in California through increased evaporation and snowpack loss, even in the absence of precipitation changes."

 

OH, AND WE MAY NEED AN ARK...
"Between December 1861 and January 1862, the nascent state of California experienced a truly extraordinary meteorological event: a more than 40-day long onslaught of extremely moist “atmospheric river” storms that led to widespread inundation on a massive scale. "

"...new analysis suggests that the risk of an extreme “sub-seasonal” 40-day precipitation event similar in magnitude to that which caused the 1862 flood will rise substantially as the climate warms. By the end of the 21st century, we find a 300 – 400+ % increase in the relative risk of such an event across the entire state."

(note: I reported this possibility on Jan 27 of 2017)

"One specific statistic that my colleagues and I found particularly eyebrow-raising: on our current emissions trajectory, at least one occurrence of an 1862-level precipitation event is more likely than not over the next 40 years (between 2018 and 2060), with multiple occurrences plausible between now and the end of the century. In practical terms, this means that what is today considered to be the “200-year flood”—an event that would overwhelm the vast majority of California’s flood defenses and water infrastructure—will become the “40-50 year flood” in the coming decades."

(Entering the Age of Extremes)

 

FREQUENT WHIPPINGS UNTIL MORAL & BEHAVIOR IMPROVES
" Our research suggests that the frequency of such “precipitation whiplash” events—in which California experiences a very dry year followed immediately by a very wet year—will increase considerably as the climate warms. We find anywhere from a 25% increase in far northern California to over a 100% increase over far southern California in the frequency of these dry-to-wet whiplash events (of a magnitude that has historically occurred about four times per century)."

 

ACROSS BROAD SWATH OF W USA
"An increase in the frequency of extremely both extremely wet and extremely dry years in California has recently begun to emerge in the observational record, and there is preliminary evidence that precipitation whiplash has started to increase across a broad swath of the western United States."

 

NOTE
Increasing Temps and Decreasing Snow not part of this study...it's even worse...

 

RESULT
"Together, these rather profound hydroclimatic changes will likely pose a progressively escalating series of tests upon California’s existing water infrastructure."

 

RED ALERT
"...disconcerting to report plausible future changes as drastic as the ones we find in our research."

"...alarm is a reasonable human response to recent climate science data."

 

Bottom Line

We just missed having a massive meltdown of last year's epic snowpack by torrential Spring rains. Early April of this year brought the same flooding threat, but to a much smaller snowpack.

We've been watching and experiencing the most extreme weather transformations in all of California's known history during the past few years as drought turned into deluge and back to drought conditions in a five year span.

 

 

Related

Sierra Snowpack, Far Below Normal, is a ‘Wakeup Call’

 

 

UPDATE

NEW WAPO ARTICLE ON TOPIC:

Precipitation whiplash and climate change threaten California’s freshwater,
WaPo, May 9, 2018.

 

TOP

 

 

NEAR MISSES

CALENDAR
January 26, 2017
The spectre of Vast Downpours filling the Sacramento Valley dancing in my mind….

 

 

CALENDAR
FIRST-SECOND WEEKS OF APRIL 2018

 

Most Extreme California Weather Transformation

 

 

Great Flood of 1862

 

 

It's gonna Get Hotter, & Seasons Change More

2017: Latest Step in the Trendline

 

 

 

 

Recent Warming Projections

Worse Models Fit Reality the Best?

 

Two Degrees Already Baked In

 

Improved Models Show Grim Future

 

2017 Hottest in Ca History, still increasing

 

2015-2016 clearly warmer than any other year

 

 

 

ECO-CRASH NEWS

 

 

 

 

April 2018 News of Man & Nature

 

 

 

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