Climate Change Is Increasing The Risk Of A California Megaflood

Despite the recent prevalence of severe drought, California faces a broadly underappreciated risk of severe floods. In this report, researchers investigated the physical characteristics of “plausible worst case scenario” extreme storm sequences capable of giving rise to “megaflood” conditions using a combination of climate model data and high-resolution weather modeling. Using the data from the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble, the researchers found that climate change has already doubled the likelihood of an event capable of producing catastrophic flooding, but larger future increases are likely due to continued warming. The researchers further found that runoff in the future extreme storm scenario is 200 to 400% greater than historical values in the Sierra Nevada because of increased precipitation rates and decreased snow fraction. These findings have direct implications for flood and emergency management, as well as broader implications for hazard mitigation and climate adaptation activities.

By Xingying Huang and Daniel L. Swain. Science Advances. August 12, 2022.

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