As California’s parade of storms comes to an end, the recovery from its devastation and reckoning with future, likely more extreme, deluges begins. President Biden surveyed the devastation on Thursday after expanding a federal disaster declaration on Wednesday. The storms have killed more than 22 people across the Golden State. The widespread downpours have bolstered snowpack and alleviated (though not ended) the state’s drought. They are also expected to induce officials across the state to reconsider everything from rain- and flood water management and capture and flood insurance to how cities are designed for a heated climate.
As extreme as the 32 trillion gallons of precipitation that have fallen on California since Christmas were, they’re likely to get worse, a study published Thursday in Nature Climate Change warns. The atmospheric rivers that brought California’s rain and snow could carry 34% more precipitation by the middle of this century as climate change, mainly caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, continues to heat the atmosphere. (Storms retrospective: Yale Climate Connections, Washington Post $, New York Times $; Biden: Axios, Reuters, KCRA; Official death toll: LA Times $; Snowpack & drought: Washington Post $, New York Times $, E&E $; Water & flood management: AP, LA Times $, Vox; Flood insurance: Grist; Cities: NPR, Grist; Future storms: AP; Climate Signals background: Atmospheric river change, Rain instead of snow, Drought)