California Drought Heat Fires And Possible Floods

California: Drought, Heat, Fires And Possible Floods

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Californians were trying to weather the extremes of a changing climate Friday, in which a heat wave that has helped fuel wildfires had the state on the verge of blackouts, and a tropical storm was brewing. felt on the coast and brought with it the promise of cooler temperatures, but also possible flooding.

The sudden change in weather conditions has surprised even the most experienced meteorologists.


“This is perhaps the most unusual and extreme week for California weather in quite some time, and that’s saying a lot,” wrote Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, on his climate blog. from West.

While the rains could be welcome in this drought-stricken state and bring relief with more normal temperatures, brutal showers and heat waves are expected to become regular fixtures as climate change warms the planet and weather-related disasters become more extreme.

“We’re going to see these heat waves keep getting hotter and hotter, longer and longer, and accompanied by more wildfires,” said Jonathan Overpeck, dean of the University of Michigan School of Environment and Sustainability. “The chances of really heavy precipitation events are increasing. And that’s why we’re concerned about the flooding linked to the remnants of this hurricane.”

California is just the latest victim of a year-long heat wave that began in Pakistan and India earlier this year and spread to parts of the northern hemisphere, including China, Europe and other parts of the United States.

Climate change has also exacerbated droughts, dried up rivers, intensified forest fires and caused massive flooding around the world, as moisture evaporates from the land and water is trapped in the atmosphere and then returned in heavy rain form.

Scientists are reluctant to attribute any particular weather event to global warming, such as Hurricane Kay, which has now been downgraded to a tropical storm and whose effects are already being felt in California. But they say heat waves are exactly the type of change that will become more common.

The so-called heat dome that engulfed California was frozen over the state by an exceptional high pressure zone over Greenland, which essentially created a meteorological gridlock, said Paul Ullrich, a professor of regional climate modeling at the University of California, Los Angeles campus. Davis. That prevented the high-pressure system that was pushing warm air over California from moving elsewhere.

Temperatures in Sacramento hit an all-time high of 116 Fahrenheit (46.7 Celsius) on Tuesday. Numerous localities recorded all-time highs in September, and many others set daily highs.

The heat that colored weather maps bright red for more than a week in California is just a preview of what’s to come.

Sacramento, the state capital, experiences about 10 “extreme heat” days a year, and that number is set to double by mid-century. During the 1970s, the city had five, Ullrich said.

“That’s going to be the story for much of the Central Valley and much of Southern California,” Ullrich predicted. “This kind of exponential growth in the number of days of extreme heat. If you put them all together, you will end up having heat waves like the ones we have experienced.”

For nine days through Thursday, the vast power grid that includes thermoelectric plants, solar parks and a network of transmission lines was subjected to record demand caused by the use of air conditioning, pressure that can lead to blackouts.

“If we’re going to build a statue to anybody in the West, it’s going to be Willis Carrier,” said Bill Patzert, a retired climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, referring to the inventor of air conditioning. “Really large areas of Southern California would be essentially uninhabitable without air conditioning.”

Air conditioners put the most pressure on energy sources during a heat wave, with power grid operators calling for electricity savings and warning of the threat of power outages as usage peaked. record on Tuesday, surpassing a record set in 2006.

The state could have prevented a repeat of the blackouts two summers ago by first sending out a text alert that rang on 27 million phones urging Californians to “take action” and turn off non-essential power.