Wednesday, December 26, 2012
As Noah says to the Lord in the famous Bill Cosby routine. As I may have mentioned before, I'm a lifelong -- well, since age 13 -- subscriber to Scientific American, which is probably why I'm such a know-it-all, even though they've been assiduously dumbing it down for the past few years.
Anyhow . . .
Michael Dettinger and Lynn Ingram this month tell us that once every couple of hundred years, California has been visited by the real, diluvean deal. Starting on Christmas eve in 1861 it rained not for 40 days and 40 nights, but for 43, after which the Central Valley was "an inland sea 300 miles long and 20 miles wide." Sacramento was 10 feet under. It took 6 months for the water to drain.
The most incredible fact about all that is that I had never heard of it before. Cal was relatively sparsely populated at that time, nevertheless thousands of people died. If that were to happen today . . .
Guess what. It will. They've been able to trace the record of such events in the sediment going back to 1150 or so, and they have convincing evidence of 5 of them. It turns out that great rivers of water vapor form in the atmosphere and west coasts generally are vulnerable to these events. And of course you know the kicker . . .
Global climate change should make them more frequent, by increasing the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. If you thought Katrina and Sandy were exciting, well now. Words fail. A simulation of a lesser event -- only 23 days of rain -- found that 1.5 million people might need to be evacuated, with total economic costs of $700 billion. Given that nobody's getting 1.5 million people to high ground very quickly, again, well now. You figure it out.
That's why I'm not making any predictions for the New Year. Shit will happen.