On October 24th, long-awaited rain was brought to California during the drought
By Kamryn Sobel
Just days before California’s historic storm, Governor Newsom declared a statewide drought emergency. However, did this storm make a dent in California’s drought problem?
Over the course of October 24th, California experienced the convergence of an atmospheric river with a bomb cyclone, causing flash floods and high winds in affected areas. During this time, parts of Northern California, including the Bay Area, were under watch for flash floods until late Sunday night and early Monday morning. In the Sierra Nevada region, the National Weather Service issued a heavy snow warning. California has experienced this type of extreme weather phenomenon before, one storm dating back to 1962 known as the “Big Blow”.
Due to atmospheric rivers occurring in mainly the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere, this recent storm was said to have happened early in the season. These atmospheric rivers are described as, “narrow, elongated corridors of concentrated moisture transport associated with extratropical cyclones,” according to the Global Hydrometeorology Resource Center from NASA. With the atmospheric rivers occurring in the extratropical North Pacific Atlantic, Southeastern Pacific, and South Atlantic, it helps to contribute to the global distribution of freshwater. In the Pacific Northwest, the bomb cyclone took place, meaning that its central pressure rapidly dropped in a short amount of time.
According to Mark Jackson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, however, even with the storm being beneficial, it was not enough to pull California out of the drought. Due to Southern California getting much of its water supply from the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which comes out of the Sierra Nevada and the California Aqueduct, drought is still a large concern for California. Additionally, fire season is still roaming, as Jackson reports “In Southern California, a good five to eight inches of rainfall can possibly end our fire season for a while,” with this storm only putting a pause to the wildfires.
With much of Northern California having been affected by wildfires over the past few years, state authorities also issued warnings for burn scar areas. One of these issues was reported in Santa Rosa for the Glass Fire area. “The National Weather Service has upgraded the Flash Flood WATCH to a Flash Flood WARNING due to current rainfall rates and the potential for debris floors in the 2020 Glass Fire burn scar area,” says Santa Rosa Fire Department. Residents were told to listen and watch for any type of unusual sounds and rushing water or mud. Santa Cruz, Kern, and El Dorado counties were also being watched in the burn scar areas by the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. Amongst these affected areas, the National Weather Service reported that the excessive rainfall over these counties could have caused life-threatening flash floods.
Being California’s second driest year on record and having low storage in the state’s largest reservoirs, the warmer temperatures and other climate change-related issues are said to be making the drought in the region become worse. California will need two full wet winter seasons to relieve the drought.
Melanie Moyer '22,