California’s record-breaking, building-crushing snowpack threatens to bring dangerous flooding to California’s Central Valley in the near-term and through the rest of the year — dangers exacerbated by recent wildfires and illustrative of the compounding and inequitably-felt damage caused by climate change. “All the flooding we’re seeing right now is just a taste of what is likely to come, because these flows that are high right now are mainly high based on the melting that occurred a while back and precipitation that fell a long time ago,” UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain.
With snow in Mammoth Lakes 30-feet deep, already-scarce affordable housing is especially threatened as the snowpack literally crushes homes. As one longtime real estate agent told the LA Times, “The best structural engineers in town are helping build mansions.”
On the other side of the Sierra Nevada, flooding has already begun refilling long-drained Lake Tulare with disastrous impacts for the migrant farmworkers in the region. The dangers posed by melting snow are even further heightened by burn scars, wide swaths of mountainside denuded of both tree cover to slow snow melt and root systems to limit catastrophic erosion. The devastating landslides set off by intense precipitation and snowmelt in burn scars are only set to become more frequent because of climate change.
“Collectively, post-wildfire hydrologic hazards — debris flows and flash floods — are going to be increasing in a warming climate,” Swain told the San Francisco Chronicle. (Snowpack flooding: LA Times $, Washington Post $; Mammoth Lakes: LA Times $; Compound impacts: San Francisco Chronicle; Climate Signals background: Extreme precipitation increase; Wildfires)