No rain but thickly gray clouds made more ominous by some sharp, high-velocity winds, all overcasting this late afternoon Tuesday here in California’s Central Valley as we reach maybe a lull in the latest storm system which plowed through our area late last night and this morning — way-heavy rains earlier today, but seemed to start tapering off about noonish.
We’ll take a break anytime we can get one.
And we could use one right about now — the storm last night was the 11th ‘atmospheric river‘ to strike the state this season, and we still have some time on the weather clock before the ‘dry’ episode begins and burns our still-wet ass. As of this afternoon, there are 70 flood watches statewide with more than 250,000 people still without power.
Jim Brusda, a meteorologist with the weather service in Hanford (my NWS area office), recapped the situation: ‘“The soil just can’t absorb all the new rain that we’re going to get, and that’s the problem … The rainfall might be a little bit less than last week, but the impacts are going to be the same, if not more, because the rivers and creeks are already so high, and the ground is already saturated.”‘
In the course of things, some rays of sunshine hope:
Some good news: once current storm fades (by tomorrow), most or all of California should see a break from major precip/winds until at least Sat/Sun. Some additional light precip is possible at times, but this will definitely help with storm/snow/flood recovery. #CAwx #CAwater
— Daniel Swain (@Weather_West) March 14, 2023
Yet a sunny side shadows a darker picture. In all the rain this year, there’s a delay horror incased on the downpour — the massive snowfall California endured the last couple of weeks will most-likely come back to haunt us in the form of even bigger asshole flooding. Next Monday is the start of spring, and shortly thereafter the melt will start; adding to that run-off mix, more rain. Via Inside Climare News this morning on the immediate California future:
The latest atmospheric river surging into California probably won’t result in worst-case flooding, state water officials and scientists said Monday. But as global warming shifts the range of possibilities, this winter’s often record levels of snow and rain could set the stage for deluges in spring if there are more strong storms or an early heatwave, they warned.
The series of intense storms started on the last day of 2022, resulting in early January floods that killed 22 people and a federal emergency declaration in 17 counties. In late February, extreme snow accumulations in the Southern California mountains north of Los Angeles led to several more deaths after trapping people inside their homes for days. Huge snowstorms along the length of the Sierra Nevada mountains that traverse the eastern edge of the state crushed roofs, downed trees and blocked highways.
Now large parts of the state are under flood alerts, with 10 inches or more rain expected March 14 and 15 in some areas. And satellite images show there could be more dangerous storms ahead, state climatologist Michael Anderson said at a March 13 briefing.
“We have this little blob showing up here, with a couple of little tendrils extending,” he said, showing a weather map during the online presentation. “And that gives us the sense that this is either one or two atmospheric rivers that may be forming up,” to affect the state between March 21 and March 23, he said. “The worst-case scenario would be back to back atmospheric rivers in that time period.”
This winter’s wet storms followed the state’s driest three years on record, and the extreme and sudden shift between dry and wet is characteristic of the changes global warming is projected to bring the state, UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain said during one of his regular webcasts about California weather and climate. The most recent historically wet year was 2017, and that was also preceded by what was then a record three-year dry spell.
“We’ve seen two historically severe droughts in the past decade, and now it appears we’ve seen two historically wet winters in Northern California, in this same decade,” he said. “This is really just playing into this notion that we’re likely to see both more precipitation and hydroclimate whiplash in California as the climate warms.”
And the situation is worldwide and getting worse with global warming. In a new study published yesterday in Nature Water, NASA utilized satellites and other science gear to uncover the absolute fact climate change is having a great effect on both droughts and rainfall totals (cue ‘atmospheric rivers‘) in creating extreme events for both dry and wet.
California and the whole, f*cking planet better get used to it — details per The Washington Post yesterday:
“As the world warms, we’re having more intense and more frequent wet and dry events around the world, which gives us a little insight into what’s going to happen in the future,” said Matthew Rodell, a hydrologist at NASA and co-author of the study. “This is an observation. It’s actual data.”
Rodell said researchers have expected to see more droughts and floods in a warmer world based on climate model predictions, but “it’s been really hard to prove.” This new analysis, which uses direct NASA satellite observations, provides “indisputable” evidence that warmer global temperatures are increasing such extreme events, Rodell said.
The team analyzed 1,056 extreme events from 2002 to 2021, using observations from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and GRACE Follow-On (GRACE-FO) satellites. The satellites detect subtle variations in Earth’s gravity field, which are used to measure water storage — including groundwater, soil moisture, snow, ice and surface waters — on land. Comparing current data to a longer-term average, the researchers can map anomalies and determine where water storage on land has increased or decreased. In this study, Rodell and NASA hydrologist Bailing Li used an algorithm that identified areas above or below average for a period of time by at least 16 percent.
While natural and recurring climate patterns, such as El Niño or La Niña, may have exacerbated some of these events, the team found that warmer global temperatures had a greater influence than other factors. Rodell said a correlation analysis of the extreme events found that no other factors were as “high as the correlation with the global mean temperature.”
The team found extreme dry and wet events have been increasing since 2002, but the most intense events have been occurring more frequently since 2015 — when Earth began its run of record-breaking warm years. An average of four extreme events occurred each year since 2015, compared to only three annual events over the previous 13 years.
The study adds to existing research, using rain gauge data, climate models and tree rings, on how a warmer atmosphere is affecting extreme wet and dry events, said climate scientist Daniel Swain, who was not involved in the study. Given the accumulation of evidence, he said it’s “probably not coincidental that the most extreme hydrologic events that you could observe in this record occurred during the warmest years of the record.”
“I think if this were just coming out of the blue and this is the only evidence we had that hydroclimate extremes were becoming greater in a warming climate, it wouldn’t be super strong evidence unto itself,” said Swain, a researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles. “But because it exists in the context of other research, I actually think it’s more interesting and more important.”
“These findings not only verify model predictions, but also the ‘dry gets drier, wet gets wetter,’ hypothesis,” groundwater scientist Melissa Rohde wrote in a separate review article that appeared in Nature on Monday.
Seeing an increase in both dry and wet events may sound counterintuitive, but the physics are two sides of the same coin. During a dry event, the air is warmer and can drive more evaporation from the surface. During a wet event, a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture (about 4 percent more for every degree Fahrenheit the atmosphere warms) and transport more moisture into an area.
Swain said that such projected increases in intense dry and wet events was largely a prediction but had not been confirmed in observations. Today, the evidence is strong.
“As the world warms, it’s fair to say that we may expect to see more frequent, more intense droughts and wet events,” said Rodell. “Here, we have the evidence that’s already happening.”
In the ugly face of all that shit, all the more dangerous and depressingly pessimistic Joe Biden’s approval yesterday of the Willow oil drilling project on the remote tundra of Alaska’s northern Arctic coast — adding fuel to the ‘already happening‘ fire.
Via the Guardian yesterday afternoon:
There are more than 600m barrels of oil available to be dislodged by ConocoPhillips over the next 30 years, effectively adding the emissions of the entire country of Belgium, via just one project, to further heat the atmosphere.
The scale of Willow is vast, with more than 200 oilwells, several new pipelines, a central processing plant, an airport and a gravel mine set to enable the extraction of oil long beyond the time scientists say that wealthy countries should have kicked the habit, in order to avoid disastrous global heating.
Biden’s approval of this is “a colossal and reprehensible stain on his environmental legacy”, according to Raena Garcia, fossil fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth. Even a group of Biden’s Democratic allies, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, attacked the decision as ignoring “the voices of the people of Nuiqsut, our frontline communities, and the irrefutable science that says we must stop building projects like this to slow the ever more devastating impacts of climate change”.
But the approval of the project is consistent with an administration that has approved nearly 100 more oil and gas drilling leases than Donald Trump had at the same point in his presidency, federal data shows. Biden may have promised “no more drilling on federal lands, period” during his presidential campaign, but the reality has been very different – not only have the hydrocarbons continued to flow, they are in a sort of boom, with both oil and gas production forecast to hit record levels year.
No, Joe, say it ain’t so — yet it is.
Time has most likely passed:
Umbrella snatched by the wind, or not, here we are once again…
(Illustration out front: ‘A Break in Reality,’ by Xetobyte, found here.)