The repeated, major storms dumping levee-breaching rain on California are both insufficient to alleviate the Golden State’s drought, and a symptom of the climate change-fueled weather whiplash exacerbating both droughts and extreme precipitation events. As the continued extraction and combustion of fossil fuels warms the atmosphere, it increases aridity and makes droughts more frequent and severe. It also enables the atmosphere to hold (and release) more water, making extreme and destructive precipitation events more likely.
“When it comes to things like extreme precipitation events and extreme heat waves, we know, essentially without a doubt, that they will increase with a warming climate, and we have warmed 1 degree [Celsius] already,” UCLA climatologist Daniel Swain told Bloomberg. To actually California’s extreme drought, “We need this stuff to happen this month, February, March, April — every month to really build up the snowpack, fill up those [water] reservoirs and knock down those [precipitation] deficits,” Richard Heim, a meteorologist with the National Centers for Environmental Information, told The Verge. “Unfortunately, a lot of it is coming too fast, too heavy.”
The storms are taking an especially heavy toll on unhoused people, many of whom feel forced to ride out the extreme weather outside because they would be forced to abandon their belongings in order to enter a shelter. (Levees: E&E News; Whiplash: Bloomberg $, The Verge, Washington Post $, San Francisco Chronicle, Grist; Unhoused dangers: San Francisco Chronicle; Climate Signals background: Climate Signals background: Extreme precipitation increase, Western Megadrought)