California’s climate has long been dominated by cycles of intense dry conditions followed by heavy rain and snow.
But never before in recorded history has the state seen such an extreme drought-to-deluge swing.
Experts and state water officials say California is seeing more of these intense weather swings as temperatures warm, which has profound implications for the droughts and floods the state may face in the generations to come.
By Wednesday or Thursday, a new series of late-season storms is expected to vault this winter into the history books, making this year the wettest winter for California’s northern Sierra Nevada in nearly a century of record-keeping. This is significant because the mountain range supplies large amounts of water for the rest of the state.
The expected milestone is all the more remarkable given that just two years before, the state was experiencing record dry conditions.
“We went from a driest-on-record scenario to a wettest-on-record scenario,” said David Rizzardo, chief of the snow survey section at the California Department of Water Resources.
Warming global temperatures can have a profound effect on weather patterns across the planet. Changing the distribution of warmth in the ocean drives changes in the atmosphere, which ultimately decides how much precipitation gets to California, Mount said.
Read more at From Extreme Drought to Record Rain: Why California's Drought-to-Deluge Cycle Is Getting Worse