The Central Valley of California is a major US production center for fruits and vegetables, and now new research indicates that it is due for massive flooding that will be worse under climate change, explain Michael Dettinger and Lynn Ingram at Scientific American. Recently discovered atmospheric rivers of water vapor carry moisture from the tropics over the temperate latitudes, and cause large storms that have resulted in massive flooding elsewhere in the US as recently as 2010. Atmospheric rivers supply up to 50% of California’s water, and cause most of the storm flooding in California. But geologic evidence indicates that every 100 to 200 years, these rivers cause megastorms that create far more massive flooding. The 1862 megastorm lasted 43 days, killing thousands as it created a large inland lake in the central valley. A 23 day storm today, for example, would cause the evacuation of 1.5 million people. Under climate change, more and larger atmospheric rivers are expected to create more frequent and larger megastorms. The next one is likely to cause even more damage than a major earthquake would do now.
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Megastorms could drown massive portions of California. Portions of California’s Central Valley have dropped 30 feet in elevation because of extensive groundwater pumping, making those areas even more prone to flooding. Huge flows of vapor in the atmosphere, dubbed “atmospheric rivers,” have unleashed massive floods every 200 years, and climate change could bring more of them. Scientific American http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=megastorms-could-down-massive-portions-of-california&print=true