How Climate Change is Escalating the Risk of a California Megaflood

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Bianca Kulback moves cones near her home on Silverado Canyon Road where water gushes off the mountainside on Monday, March 28, 2022. ( Photo by Mindy Schauer/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

It may seem a bit strange to be talking about [the] rising risk of a California megaflood amidst severe drought. But it’s not as paradoxical as it might seem,” tweeted Daniel Swain, co-lead author of the recently published study in the journal Science Advances, “Climate change is increasing the risk of a California megaflood.” Megastorms fueled by atmospheric rivers could bring more than 16 inches of rainfall across the state in one month. More rain than snow could fall in the Sierra Nevada, leading to extreme runoff. That’s according to the study’s climate models, which estimate that California’s current annual risk of a megaflood is 1 in 50 — with human-caused climate change projected to increase that risk over time. We’ll talk to the scientists behind the report about their findings and how California should respond.
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Daniel Swain, climate scientist, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA and The Nature Conservancy of California.

Xingying Huang, project scientist, Climate and Global Dynamics Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Michael Mierzwa, state floodplain manager, Floodplain Management Branch, California Department of Water Resources