Friday, February 17, 2017

Surfing California's Atmospheric River

When you think of natural disasters in California, your mind’s eye naturally envisions earthquakes. And for good reason, the Pacific-North American plate boundary, manifested by the San Andres fault, slices through California from the Salton Sea north to northern California’s Point Delgada. 

It turns out that flooding from ‘atmospheric’ rivers is capable of causing as much or more damage to California as a magnitude 8 earthquake. The ‘Great Flood of 1862’, the result of 45 straight days of rain, transformed central California into a 300-mile sea. A similar event today could swamp 25% of the state and cause $725 billion in damages according to a report by Adam Brinklow of the Curbed San Francisco. 

Atmospheric River (AR) descending on CA Feb 2017
This weekend California is on watch for its second atmospheric river event of the winter of 2017. No one anticipates a mega-storm like that of 1862, but flooding and infrastructure are likely to occur.

For more on the impacts of a mega-storm see the US Geological Survey’s ‘Overview of the ARkStorm Scenario’ released in 2010. 
Blue inboard of coast shows potential flood zones of AR.

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