Friday, November 5, 2021

The 19th Century California Megaflood

Some friends on Twitter made me aware of a Scientific American article I missed when it was first published in 2013. It is the true story of a mega-flood that occurred throughout California (especially) and the West in the winter of 1861-62. The story is remarkable. 

Below is an image of the flooding in Sacramento along K Street.
The map the map depicts the almost unbelievable extent of the flooding. The story should be read by anyone interested in weather (especially weather forecasting), California history or emergency management. 

Climatologists tell us that this type of flood occurs in California roughly every two hundred years. 

An "Ark Storm" refers to Noah's Ark. The 1861-62 flood would certainly qualify! Except, it would be worse today because so much of the area -- especially Southern California -- is paved over and there would be exponentially more people to rescue as compared with the 500,000 people who lived in California at that time. 
I do take issue with the author's pessimism about meteorology's ability to forecast atmospheric river-type storms in California and the West, as she calls them "unpredictable." The are not. Meteorologists routinely forecast them when they occur, as they did in the winter of 2017. 

Two critical points:
  • If an identical storm occurred today, it would be a national-level catastrophe. Not only would California be devastated, think about all of the supply-chain issues we are having today even with highways and railroads open. What would it be like with California (and, possibly, Oregon and Washington) cut off from the rest of the nation? It would rank with a Carrington EMP event that could even threaten the existence of our nation. Plus, we could not bring help in fast enough!
  • If this identical storm were to occur today, it would be entirely blamed on global warming! This event demonstrates Mother Nature is completely capable of causing extreme floods and extreme drought without any help from human beings. 
Federal spending contains a tremendous amount of waste and foolishness. President Biden's BBB bill, now before Congress, wants a "Climate Army" that goes door to door to harass people about global warming. That $2.5 billion would be far better spent building up our hydrological expenses in the West.

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