California’s floods reveal a likely climate change symptom: Quick shifts between opposing weather conditions.
In less than a week, the story about California’s weather shifted dramatically. Just before New Year’s Eve, the state was running out of water following two decades of severe drought. Then, it started to rain and rain. Over the last two weeks, California was battered by a series of atmospheric rivers — narrow corridors of water in the sky — that utterly drenched the region, killing people and damaging homes and highways.
From extreme drought, the focus on California has quickly pivoted to extreme floods.
There’s a term for this: weather whiplash. It generally describes a quick shift from one weather extreme to another. And California is far from the only region to experience the effect. Places like Dallas and Michigan, as well as parts of Europe and Asia, have all experienced their share of whiplash, which often produces catastrophic results.
A key question now is whether weather whiplash is getting worse as the planet warms — and how that might complicate disaster readiness…