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What Does Climate Change Have to do With the Floods in California?

Updated: Feb 23

There are a lot of connections between the current historic flooding in California and our warming climate. One of the most integral parts of life on earth is our water cycle, and our warming planet is changing the cycle’s patterns. To understand the science behind the changing water cycle and how it affects California's flooding read on. 


When the atmosphere gets warmer, the air is able to hold more moisture. More moisture means more humidity. With more water vapor in the air there are more intense storms. These principles are not particular to California, but will lead to more extreme downpours in many parts of the world. 


California is situated under atmospheric rivers that carry more water vapor over the state. In addition, traditional weather patterns meant that snowfall in the Sierra Nevada would hold much of California’s water, until it slowly trickled down over many months. As temperatures in the region increase, much of the snowpack will be lost. This change is creating conditions for more intense water streaming in from the mountains. 


It’s important to call attention to how climate change is affecting people all across the world. More than 800,000 people are without power as rain and strong wind move in. In addition, multiple counties have been told to evacuate due to potential lethal floods and landslides. Along with flooding, climate change has also thrown other natural disasters to the extreme, including fires and droughts. These are the practical consequences of climate change. 


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