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Mega Droughts & Floods In California

May 16, 2014

By Paul Homewood


Russ Steele has an interesting post over at The Next Grand Minimum , about the history of droughts and floods in California:




I was in Mendocino at the Gallery Bookshop when I spotted The West Without Water by B. Lynn Ingram and Francis Malamud-Roam on a shelf reserved for environmental books, one of the larger categories in this excellent book shop in liberal land on the coast. According to the book flap information on Amazon:


The West Without Water documents the tumultuous climate of the American west over twenty millennia, with tales of past droughts and deluges and predictions about the impacts of future climate change on water resources. Looking at the region’s current water crisis from the perspective of its climate history, the authors ask the central question of what is “normal” climate for the West, and whether the relatively benign climate of the past century will continue into the future.

The West without Water merges climate and paleoclimate research from a wide variety of sources as it introduces readers to key discoveries in cracking the secrets of the region’s climatic past. It demonstrates that extended droughts and catastrophic floods have plagued the West with regularity over the past two millennia and recounts the most disastrous flood in the history of California and the West, which occurred in 1861–62. The authors show that, while the West may have temporarily buffered itself from such harsh climatic swings by creating artificial environments and human landscapes, our modern civilization may be ill-prepared for the future climate changes that are predicted to beset the region. They warn that it is time to face the realities of the past and prepare for a future in which fresh water may be less reliable.


This is a very interesting book that provided some climate history that I was unfamiliar, especially the 1861-62 flood in the Central Valley. I thought is was just in Sacramento, but it was the whole valley filled like a bathtub 10 feet deep. Records spanning the last 2000 years indicate these huge floods happened once or twice per century. We maybe close to a major flood event in the near future according the cyclical record.  These flood events were more prevalent during cold periods, like the Little Ice Age. And, we are on the cusp of the next grand minimum, an extended cooling period according to leading solar scientists.


As Russ comments:

The bottom line message in the historical record is that over the last 150 years we have been living in an unusual period of stable climate extremes, and our world is about to change, more long-term droughts and more mega-floods. And, we are not prepared for either. 



Read the rest here.

One Comment
  1. May 17, 2014 9:05 am

    More recent extreme precipitation in California should not be ignored. Autumn 1939 marked a climatic shift from air temperature warming (1919-1939) to global cooling (1940-1975), with a significant impact in Eastern USA as discussed here:

    In California precipitation in September 1939 was 370 % above normal (Alabama, 119%; Arizona, 335%; Nevada 327%; Utah 261%). However, in most States, September 1939 was unusual dry.

    In early September the Russian and Japanese Armies met in a severe encounter in the Outer Mongolia, whereby California experienced an eight days heat wave, since about September 16th followed by a severe tropical storm (NYT, 25 September) and record rain. It was the heaviest September rain in Los Angeles’ weather history and it broke the worst heat wave in Weather Bureau records, as measured by intensity and duration. It lasted for eight days. (NYT, 26 September). During summer 1939 El Niño was active off South America’s coast. Made events in Europe, China and the equatorial Pacific Ocean record weather in California?

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