An atmospheric river dumped heavy precipitation on California over the weekend is responsible for multiple deaths and rescues of stranded motorists, breached levees, and “too many road closures to count.” “I don’t want to use the term apocalyptic, but it’s ugly,” Sacramento County spokesman Matt Robinson told the LA Times. Oakland saw 4.75 inches of rain on Saturday, the most in one day since 1970, and San Francisco was just shy of an all-time record with 5.46 inches.
Climate change, mainly caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, is responsible for 42% of the severity of the megadrought gripping the American West, while also making extreme precipitation events worse and more likely. “The moisture that we’re getting now is a big help, but we need more — a lot more — to really put a major dent in the drought,” Richard Heim, an author of the U.S. Drought Monitor and a meteorologist with the National Centers for Environmental Information, told the LA Times.
While higher altitudes received multiple feet of snow, warmer temperatures caused more precipitation to fall as rain instead of snow, exacerbating flooding. “We have some crews doing repair jobs on the levees right now, but I haven’t seen high water like this in 20 years,” Reclamation District 800 spokesperson Mark Hite told the New York Times. Another atmospheric river with the potential to become a “bombogenesis cyclone” is expected to slam the West Coast later this week. (AP, New York Times $, LA Times $, Washington Post $, NBC, The Guardian, The Hill; Drought impact: LA Times $; This week: SFGate, New York Times $; Climate and winter storms: Phys.org)