Climatologists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the US have shown that climate change doubles the likelihood of a complete flooding of California in the next 40 years, making the most costly disaster in history inevitable. The study was published in the journal Science Advances.
An analysis of the large CESM global climate dataset showed that the probability of a major flood caused by the continuous flow of “atmospheric rivers” during the cool season increases by 200-300%. If earlier megaceles occurred every 200 years, their frequency will now rise to three per century.
“Atmospheric rivers” are narrow structures that contribute to the transfer of atmospheric water vapor from the tropics to other climatic zones. They can be compared to fire hoses thrown thousands of kilometers away.
California’s mountainous terrain will add to the problem as well as wildfires, which have become more frequent due to climate change, transforming the California valley into a steep, slippery surface from which water currents will flow rapidly.
A flood that temporarily turns California into the sea could be the most costly climate disaster to date. The state would lose more than $1 trillion – 5 times more than Hurricane Katrina, the most costly disaster in US history to date.
The mega-flood had happened earlier in California, in 1861-1862. He transformed the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys into a temporary but vast inland sea. Some areas were covered with nine meters of water within weeks. Four thousand people died, a third of state property was destroyed, a quarter of the cattle population suffocated or died of starvation – all this led to the bankruptcy of the state. In 1862, about 500 thousand people lived in California, now the population of the region is more than 39 million, so the consequences of a new mega-flood will be incomparably worse.
While many parts of the US have been struggling with droughts in recent years, in the summer of 2022 Eastern Kentucky, St. Flash floods are an almost regular occurrence, including several times in St. Louis and even Death Valley National Park in California. The study’s authors believe that flooding cannot be avoided. However, the scale of losses from mega-floods can be significantly reduced by modernizing flood and water management systems.
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