Study: California to get "climate whiplash" between drought and floods

Biblical 40 days and 40 nights rain events forecast to increase.

From the “models are always accurate in climateland for the next 80 years” department comes this claim of “weather, er, climate whiplash”.

According to the study published today, 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. Study authors point to the fact that California has already experienced a rapid rise in such “whiplash” events – going from a record multi-year drought between 2012 and 2016, to heavy flooding in the winter of 2016-17. Apparently, that’s a sure sign of “whiplash”.

According to the authors, the situation will worsen as the global climate alters due to mankind’s voracious burning of coal, oil, and gas for energy. Gosh.

Their models project that wet-to-dry extremes in California could double under a worst-case scenario in which fossil fuel emissions continue growing until 2100. 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.

They mention 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,”. Ooof! Sounds like they’ll need more taxes to foot the bill in the future.

The models say multiple such events were “plausible” until 2100. But, the researchers don’t explain how such extreme events could happen in 1862 without the help of “global warming”.

The study:

Increasing precipitation volatility in twenty-first-century California

Daniel L. Swain, Baird Langenbrunner, J. David Neelin & Alex Hall

Abstract

Mediterranean climate regimes are particularly susceptible to rapid shifts between drought and flood—of which, California’s rapid transition from record multi-year dryness between 2012 and 2016 to extreme wetness during the 2016–2017 winter provides a dramatic example. Projected future changes in such dry-to-wet events, however, remain inadequately quantified, which we investigate here using the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble of climate model simulations. Anthropogenic forcing is found to yield large twenty-first-century increases in the frequency of wet extremes, including a more than threefold increase in sub-seasonal events comparable to California’s ‘Great Flood of 1862’. Smaller but statistically robust increases in dry extremes are also apparent. As a consequence, a 25% to 100% increase in extreme dry-to-wet precipitation events is projected, despite only modest changes in mean precipitation. Such hydrological cycle intensification would seriously challenge California’s existing water storage, conveyance and flood control infrastructure.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0140-y

Of course, the study is pay-walled, so unless you fess up or are a member of the climate anointed, you can’t read it. However, I did find the blog of lead author Daniel Swain, and he includes graphs of the model output, such as this one, suggesting 40 day (and presumably nights) rain events will get more common in a nice linear fashion.

Cumulative number of 1862 “Great Flood”-like extreme 40-day precipitation accumulations between 2018 and 2100 in Northern California. (Swain et al. 2018)

Here, Swain talks about the big flood of 1862, but offers no explanation how it happened when CO2 was far less than today.


California’s “Other Big One”: repeat of the Great Flood of 1862

Cumulative number of 1862 “Great Flood”-like extreme 40-day precipitation accumulations between 2018 and 2100. (Swain et al. 2018)

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. Newspaper reports and personal journals suggest that nearly every river, stream, and creek between central Oregon and the Mexican border experienced significant flooding during this event, which brought dozens of inches of rain even to California’s drier low-lying coastal areas over the course of just a few weeks, and well over 100 inches of rain (over 8 feet) along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada over a two month period. The Central Valley was transformed into a 25-mile wide, 300-mile long inland sea as deep as 20 feet in some places; newly-elected governor Leland Stanford was transported to his January inauguration at the state capitol via rowboat through the streets of Sacramento shortly before the state legislature made the decision to temporarily relocate to San Francisco. Vast swaths of land in Los Angeles and Orange counties were underwater—land that is now heavily urbanized, and home to millions of Californians. (For those interested, I highly recommend this excellent long read on the 1862 flood event, as well as this earlier piece in Scientific American.)

The U.S. Geological Survey, in a landmark report published in 2011, termed a modern repeat of a similar extreme storm sequence California’s “Other Big One”—an indication that the impact of such an event would be comparable to the enormous damages wrought by a large-magnitude earthquake near San Francisco or Los Angeles. It’s not difficult to see why the “ARkStorm” scenario would be devastating in present-day California: the state is now home to nearly 40 million more people than it was in 1862, nearly a quarter of whom live in floodplains that would be inundated during an event of this magnitude. California today depends on an enormously extensive water storage and distribution system to satisfy agricultural irrigation demands in the Central Valley and urban water needs in its thirsty coastal cities; many of the levees and dams that make up this vast water network also serve as flood control structures that protect urban areas from rising waters during storm events. All of California’s major economic sectors—from Silicon Valley tech to Hollywood movie production to large-scale agriculture—could grind to a virtual standstill in the aftermath of such an event. Overall economic damages could approach a trillion dollars, and thousands of lives would be at risk.

This all may sound pretty implausible, like something out of a disaster movie. But the underlying physical event (a 40+ day sequence of extreme storms) is not a theoretical construct—it definitely happened in 1862And paleoclimate analysis of sediments from California’s coastal river systems suggests that events of a similar magnitude have happened many times in the region’s deeper past—approximately every 200 years. But how will the odds of such a potentially catastrophic event change as the climate warms?

Our 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. 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.


Then there’s this handy “whiplash graphic”, suitable for making a wall poster to remind you how terrible the future will be in Cali:

More here: http://weatherwest.com/archives/6252

However, the lead author, Swain, has this citation:

  • Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA, USA

So with that sort of eco-background, I can surmise this is just another NGO driven study looking for the next research grant. Based on my experience, and my read of it, I don’t think it has much real science in it, but rather is just another example of PlayStation Climatology™ tweaked to scare the bejesus out of dolts like Moonbeam Governor Brown so he’ll throw money at them.

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70 thoughts on “Study: California to get "climate whiplash" between drought and floods

  1. Whether flood or drought, it’s all caused by evil humans and all bad.
    Climate change is man-made always bad. We must repent, pay taxes and join the Borg. Because we are the root of all evil.
    The god of Communism failed. The false god of CACA will not be allowed to suffer the same fate.

  2. Classic ‘tails you lose , tails I win ‘ for this ‘research allows them to claim any extreme event as proof and any period of no such events as merely time between them and therefore further ‘proof ‘ of their claims .
    Does life get any easier than in climate ‘science’ any old rubbish is allowed and you set the game up so you can never lose .

    • No worries, even if Cali now has a long string of “average” rainfall years, they’ll come up with an intellectual sounding pseudo-science “explanation” for it (i.e., blaming humans for it) and will tell us it’s “bad” and what “catastrophic consequences” it will have on [fill in the blank].

    • Weather: “Rain with long fine intervals … suddenly becomes “Climate whiplash” … sheesh,

    • In Reno, Nevada we were warned when we moved here to be prepared when we left the house to encounter 100 degree (F) weather as well as snow. So far, it hasn’t been that bad. After a 4″ snowfall last June 11, it warmed to only 76 degrees. With humidity in the teens, the ground was dry by 1:00 PM.
      So, yeah, we carry t-shirts and coats in the truck year round. And expect whiplash every day.

  3. Anthony,
    nice summary commentary on a Nature Conservancy zealot author masquerading as a scientist. Couldn’t agree more. Those dolts are loved by fellow dolts like Moonbeam.

  4. In Orange County, CA where I live there was the 1933 flood that inundated about half of the county. But way back then there were not the flood control infrastructure that is in place today. The big question is whether the current infrastructure is sufficient. At one time Lake Tulare in the Central valley was the largest body of fresh water in the lower 48 west of the Mississippi. Right now it is almost nothing but often Mother Nature has her way. California has always had periods of droughts and floods. There is no real evidence that California’s weather cycles has any thing to do with hypothetical human caused climate change.

  5. its a pity that these studies continue to use the RCP8.5 pathway, which they ought to know is a fraudulent case, one which assumes oil, gas, and coal resources are nearly endless and stuff the atmosphere with imaginary emissions we know aren’t possible due to simple market forces.

  6. How can they predict the probability of the repeating of an event that has only been recorded once? Magic?
    “…a record multi-year drought between 2012 and 2016,”
    Are there not studies showing that a 200 year drought occurred as recently as 1000 years ago? Yes, I thought so.
    How is it that 4 years is now a ‘record’? The only record I hear is the broken one that keeps repeating, “Catastrophe, click, catastrophe, click, catastrophe, click…”

  7. In my country , if the first city has an event its major news and if the same thing happens in any other city its gets a passing mention. California seems to have the same syndrome, they get weather and its a major event/cataclysm. Rest of the US has weather, meh get over it.

  8. ‘Anthropogenic forcing is found to yield large twenty-first-century increases in the frequency of wet extremes, including a more than threefold increase in sub-seasonal events comparable to California’s ‘Great Flood of 1862’. ‘
    I live close to the Met Office in Exeter and often visit the extensive library and archives there in order to research my own articles.
    At the request of another contributor here I looked at the records for a number of other countries, including America.
    The US has quite a good if sporadic record of historic events from the late 1700’s. These became much more detailed and consistent from around the 1850’s, when weather observers started sending in records to Govt, that the nascent weather bureau then issued as a monthly and annual ‘US weather review’
    There are many gems in these and I would make two observations.
    Firstly, that there are numerous records of wet and dry extremes in California (and many other areas) They are not reserved for the modern world, perhaps we just forget our history or, if they are not digitally captured, researchers are not aware of them.
    Secondly, the population in California in the mid 19th century was extremely small. Their usage of water was very low and droughts would have had to be very severe for there to have been a problem and any wet events would also have impacted on a tiny number of people and may not even have been noticed, let alone recorded.
    There is a rewarding book-perhaps one exists-in which the weather of California is thoroughly researched from the documentation available and it may be that other data can be found in dusty libraries or museums in rural towns.
    Extremes and unique drought and wet events in modern day California? I doubt it.
    tonyb

    • This is what I don’t understand about climate doomsayers. There are abundant written journals, diaries, newspapers, paintings, etc from the 1600’s to present in the U.S. and even longer in Europe that can be used to validate some of the research being done. Are climate scientists unable to read or look at art?
      Just the fact that California is littered with adobe structures built by the Spanish should tell them something about the climate, i.e. it isn’t normally waterlogged.

  9. California has a mediterranean type climate. Which is more or less another word for “whiplash”.

  10. FWIW, Los Angeles annual rainfall 1877-2017 is tabulated at http://www.laalmanac.com/weather/we13.php It’s HIGHLY variable. 3.21 inches in 2006-7.. 37.25 inches in 2004-5. IIRC, one year in the 1950s, it got about 7 inches, 6 of which fell in 72 hours, thus presenting many residents with both drought and flood in the same year.

  11. The last semi-bilblical flood was the in winter of 1996/97. It rained for around 30 days almost non stop for the entirety of that duration. This study does not even mention that particular flood, for some odd reason. At the time lakes were starting to form in the valley to the north of Sacramento. Every little rivulet of a stream was a raging torrent.
    I also note that there is no mention of the Great Flood of 1964/65. That flood impacted/devastated the West Coast from BC in the north down to north of San Francisco. The Ark Storm of 1861/62 struck 2 years after the maximum of SC 10. It would be interesting to see how the minimum set in on that solar cycle in greater detail. It looks like the minimum started around 1866 which would place the Ark Storm 4 years prior. I wonder if there was another lesser flood winter around 1864/65 of that year. Unfortunately the MEI starts in 1872. So I can’t see what the ENSO regions were doing back in 1861/62. This study is junk, but what else is new for most of the AGW related studies.

  12. It is amazing how whatever the weather is doing, the climate extremists predict that the future will be a worse version of it.
    Light winters?
    No more snow, as predicted.
    Heavy winters?
    More cold ahead, as predicted.
    Drought?
    Endless drought to come.
    Heavy rains and floods?
    Now it will rain and flood, but really bad.
    “Sustainability expert” is a code word for “climate priest”.

      • Well said. It is not California’s fault that Oroville Dam was not maintained. It is not California’s fault that there is insufficient water for the residents. It is someone else’s fault.
        That was California can spend their tax money on a train. Not particularly fast, nor between two towns that anyone cares about except the residents… maybe. But it will be a monument to Moonbeam, who couldn’t get his satellite back in the ’70s.

  13. Let’s see …hmmm if we double the wet periods and dry periods then, according to my calculations they’ll have Kentucky weather. Salivating more-ons.

  14. I think the use of Zig-Zag papers is causing a distorted perception of reality in many cases.
    Possibly a hallucinogenic pipe dream similar to a self induced alternate reality where everything goes up in smoke!

    • Really? Come live here. Because unless you have a suggestion of where your comment is ignorant. Auburn dam is still feasible, but not much else that is reasonable. The reality is that we get more water during wet years than can possibly be captured. During the 1862 storm, the American River was running at somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 cfs. At 400,000 cfs, Folsom lake would fill in about 29 hours from totally empty to running over the top. That why the whole valley was full of water. Stop talking about more dams when what is needed is desalination plants in southern California. Santa Monica bay is full of water and always will be. The water needs to come from where the water is used because there is not enough storage and never will be enough storage to capture the water from storms that only come every 10 to 11 years with an occasional big one thrown in for good measure.

      • desalination plants in southern California.
        ==========
        Excellent point. Farmers cannot compete with city dwellers on price for water. LA probably wouldn’t exist today except for one the greatest water swindles in history.
        The obvious solution is to produce fresh water with the excess solar power that is right now destabilizing the grid in CA and sowing the seeds of huge power problems in future.
        Which pretty much guarantees nothing will be done. Because without problems there would be no need for politicians to solve them.

      • Desalination plants are only viable where there is no supply of fresh water. Expensive to build and maintain. Energy intensive makes the water costly. Environmentally destructive. People believe that just because ocean water is plentiful it’s a good source for fresh water but they don’t understand the ramifications. Ask Santa Barbara what they did with their $60M to build desalination plant when the rains came. Never used and mothballed. Decided to activate it years later in the drought …. took two years and $70M …. just in time for the rain to come and make it useless again.

  15. So…the takeaway is that there is every probability of a 200 year event by 2060? Two full years before the 200 year window?!!!. Wow. What a bunch of maroons.
    And do they even know that the 1862 floods in southern California were followed by a multiyear drought? Too many carbon emission from the Conestoga SUV’s?
    Thanks Goldminor for the 1996/97 reference. During that storm the inflow of all streams into the Central Valley was 3,000,000 cfs. The best transit of water through the delta to San Francisco bay is +/- 900,000 cfs. We were headed for another “fill the valley” lake but the rain stopped and the dams did their intended delay of run off.

  16. Without error bars on their data it highly likely what the are actually seeing is an increase in the error overtime. Not an increase in variance.
    It is this unaccounted for error over time that gives the statistical appearance that the variance is increasing while it is in fact remaining the same or even decreasing due to global warming most affecting night time temperatures.
    In other word. The conclusion is due to faulty math. They haven’t accounted for the increase in error over time.

    • Good point. Gave rise to the song “It Never Rains In Southern California”.

  17. With apologies to the regular people that are trapped there, it couldn’t happen to a better band of left wing nutjobs. How do we sign BC up for the same fate?

  18. Another example of the climate science zig-zag: funding-in garbage-out. A branch of study that has become little more than a cornucopia of imaginable disasters.
    In the real world, a light shower now and then will not put an end to a drought, only prolong it. Heavier than average rainfall ends a drought. And parched soil is often less absorbing of moisture than dampened soil. So I’m with the others up-thread… it’s not unusual for flooding after a drought… even in the state that until the most recent flooding was experiencing a ‘never-ending’ drought.
    So when I say garbage, I mean what is common sense to a thinking lay-person being passed off as some kind of PhD-level intellectual insight.

  19. A common mistake in climate science is to not account for error. When considering the future your error may be +- 0.1 C today but +- 5 C in 50 years.
    So your model will quite happily tell you that weather will only vary 0.1 C today but it will vary 5 C in 50 years.
    But of course it is an illusion of faulty statistics. The assumption that you can predict the future 50 years from now with the same accuracy as predicting what will happen today.

  20. The authors of these articles meed to add disclaimers to these articles, sort of like the ones you see on movies: “All of the scenes of animals in this movie were created with CGI. No Animals Were Harmed in the making of this movie”.
    It would read: “All of the content of this article was generated by computer models. No actual data was harmed during the making of this article.”

  21. The usual tactic, straight from the playbook. If the weather doesn’t do as predicted, then the new weather is even worse than predicted and a result of the same influence – human emissions.

  22. This is another “we’re going to experience an increase of more severe hurricanes making landfall in the US.”

  23. OK, take a deep breath these floods have happened before, long before the myth of anthropogenic global warming. According to The West Without Water by B.Lynn Ingram and Frances Malamud-Roam. According to the authors, there is evidence of similar and larger floods that have occurred every one to two centuries over the past two millennia. So, these floods are not caused by anthropogenic global warming; they are an alarming regular cycle over the past several millennia.
    https://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520286009
    The cycle of flood and drought can be found here: https://sierrafoothillcommentary.com/2018/03/13/california-drought-report-worst-drought-ever/

  24. Reblogged this on Sierra Foothill Commentary and commented:
    OK, take a deep breath these floods have happened before, long before the myth of anthropogenic global warming. According to The West Without Water by B.Lynn Ingram and Frances Malamud-Roam. According to the authors, there is evidence of similar and larger floods that have occurred every one to two centuries over the past two millennia. So, these floods are not caused by anthropogenic global warming; they are an alarming regular cycle over the past several millennia.
    https://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520286009
    The cycle of flood and drought can be found here: https://sierrafoothillcommentary.com/2018/03/13/california-drought-report-worst-drought-ever/

  25. According to the study published today, 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. Study authors point to the fact that California has already experienced a rapid rise in such “whiplash” events – going from a record multi-year drought between 2012 and 2016, to heavy flooding in the winter of 2016-17. Apparently, that’s a sure sign of “whiplash”.
    This would appear to be the perfect opportunity for California to create more water storage reservoirs and by design more Hydro-electric facilities to produce carbon free energy 24/7/365 instead of unreliables…now if only Gov. Moonbeam will get wise and actually do something other than banning cow flatulence

    They mention 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,”. Ooof! Sounds like they’ll need more taxes to foot the bill in the future.
    1862 – 2060 sounds like the flooding could be a natural 1-200 year storm event (which has yet to recur) without invoking the dreaded CO2 boogie man

    • Wait til climate backlash kicks in. Then you’ll be sorry. When climate goes on the rampage, look out.

  26. It’s self absorbed Californian’s weather, in a marginal managed environment . The Russian settlers couldn’t even get started there. A load of it is desert. Californian weather has as much to do with global climate change as Elon Musk has with the truth, or Gerry Brown’s renewable obsession can deliver plentiful cheap energy with minimal environmental impact. Look at your bills and windmills, etc. Check the facts ot the promises and go figure. Check out Germany for the cost of science denial. Energy physics denial can only have one result.Expensive failure.

  27. It’s amazing how everything from floods to hurricanes that used to happen naturally can only happen today if climate change causes them. It is either sheer hubris or deliberate deceit for these pseudo scientists to try to convince the public that nature is incapable of causing disasters without the help of humans.

    • You have a point. My wife does lament the FACT that every day was perfect. She somehow doesn’t remember a rainstorm during the daytime. In fact, the weather there is unusually stable, so every hiccup results in the natives going crazy, crying that the sky is falling. Nothing like Reno.
      Summer: Clear, no wind, highs in the 90’s.
      Fall: Clear, some winds, highs in the 90’s.
      Winter: Scattered clouds, no winds, highs in the 80’s.
      Spring: Morning fog, then clear, no wind, highs in the 80’s.
      Did you never see “LA Story” with Steve Martin? It’s a documentary. Worth watching.

  28. How silly: “Biblical 40 days and 40 nights” was enough to float the ark and put it on Mount Ararat! Surely California will never see rains of this magnitude.

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