SAN DIEGO (KSWB) – A barrage of storms have hit California over the last few weeks and yet another is on the horizon, bringing record-setting precipitation to much of the region.
Between atmospheric rivers and colder low-pressure systems, almost all of the state is well above average precipitation levels, easing the drought from historic dry conditions seen just three months ago and bringing snow levels to highs not seen in decades.
But that benefit has not come without a cost: thousands of residents across the state have been evacuated amidst the back-to-back storms that have prompted flooding, landslides, levee breaks and power outages.
Emergency declarations have been implemented in 40 of California’s 58 counties and there’s no indication yet that conditions will get much drier anytime soon, despite the normal April 1 end of the wet season fast approaching.
Californians might be asking themselves what’s behind this unusual weather pattern and experts have no definitive answer, except for one: climate change.
“Climate change… it has its fingerprint all over this,” Andrew Schwartz, lead scientist with the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Laboratory, said to FOX5SanDiego.com.
Each individual storm seen over the last few months is nothing new to the state, but experts say that the larger pattern of one after another storms bringing extreme rain and snow to the region following a prolonged period of drought is something that is likely to keep happening as the global climate changes.
“We’ve definitely seen an uptick in the magnitude or the severity of the storms. And it’s not just the storms, it’s the lack of rain,” Alexander Tardy, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service San Diego, told FOX5SanDiego.com. “These two combined are potentially an indication of climate change – more severe droughts and more severe heavy rains.”
As Tardy explained, the same goes for extremes in temperatures seen in the state across the last few years, with cycles between record heat waves and below normal winter temperatures that have allowed snowfall to occur at extremely low elevations.
“That’s the indication of climate change, seeing severity in the cycles,” he continued.
The irregularity in these extreme weather cycles is likely to continue in future years, if not worsen, along with further changes to the global climate.
“Higher climate variability and these weather whiplash events from year to year, those are only expected to increase,” Schwartz said.
What these ‘whiplash events’ look like could manifest itself in totally different weather across different regions or year to year — from irregular high temperatures to excessive amounts of precipitation.
Scientists have gotten a lot better at forecasting weather farther in advance with fairly good accuracy, Tardy explained – shown in real time with the tracking of the third atmospheric river on its way to the region next week — but it gets harder to predict past two weeks.
Moving forward, all kinds of weather extremes will need to be something that Californians will need to ready themselves for.
“We’re susceptible to a lot of these weather events and we need to be prepared every year for different events, dry…wet…warm…cold, fires or no fires,” Tardy said.