Californians should expect more dramatic swings between dry and wet years as the climate warms, according to a new study that found it likely that the state will be hit by devastating, widespread flooding in coming decades, it was reported Monday.
University of California researchers in essence found that California's highly volatile climate will become even more volatile as human-caused climate change tinkers with atmospheric patterns over the eastern Pacific Ocean, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The long-term average of annual precipitation in California won't change much, they predicted.
"Yet despite that, we see a big increase in extremes," said UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain, lead author of a paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change. "We expect to see more really wet years and also more really dry years."
That means managing the state's complex waterworks will become even more daunting, according to The Times. The threat to aging dams and flood-control networks will increase. The wildfire threat will grow more extreme.
"We really need to be thinking seriously about what we're going to do about these risks," Swain said, according to The Times.
"It's a little bit hard to exaggerate how disastrous a repeat of the 1862 flood would be in California," he added, referring to statewide flooding that followed weeks of storms.
That is "something that will very plausibly happen in the next 40 years," sending floodwater rushing across the Los Angeles basin and other major urban areas, he said, according to The Times.