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California residents are concerned that the “Big One” will strike the state any time soon. Many people believe that the disaster is a catastrophic earthquake that will shake the majority of California, destroying both lives and property. According to experts, the “Big One” could be a megaflood rather than an earthquake.
Climate change, according to Science Advances, has increased the likelihood of devastating floods to double over the next four decades. Experts believe that the type of floods resulting from climate change are unprecedented in human history.
Megaflood is defined as “a very severe flood event across a broad region that has the potential to bring catastrophic impacts to society in the areas affected,” according to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist and UCLA researcher involved in the study. He likened the megaflood to the 1,000-year flash flood that drifted through St. Louis and Kentucky but in a much larger area – one the size of California.
Experts say that the California megaflood may be cyclic in nature, which has happened before. However, the megaflood has the potential to turn much of California into a “vast inland sea,” and due to the worsening effects of global warming, the cycle of megafloods in California may be reduced to 25 to 50 years.
Flash floods have occurred numerous times this summer in Eastern Kentucky, St. Louis, and Death Valley National Park. The increased frequency of flash floods can be attributed to the heavy downpours triggered by climate change.
The state of California is no stranger to flash floods and floods caused by water accumulation in rivers across the state during heavy rains. However, the effects of climate change increase the volume of rainfall, thereby raising the probability of a megaflood.
Areas that could sustain the most damage
According to research, the Central Valley of California, which includes Bakersfield, Fresno, and Sacramento, will suffer the most devastation. The information is based on a research project that analyzes the movement of water vapor and potential precipitation accumulation over the region in a 30-day timeframe.
According to the US Geological Survey, if the Central Valley is washed out due to the megaflood, food supply disruptions could occur because the area produces more than a quarter of the US food supply.
The megaflood’s effects will be felt throughout the country. According to one study, the damage caused by the megaflood could reach $1 trillion and severely damage Orange and Los Angeles counties. Furthermore, the disaster would be the most expensive in US history, costing five times as much as Hurricane Katrina, the most expensive on record.
Megaflood before and now, a huge difference
Over 150 years ago, the Golden State experienced one of the most devastating floods in the country’s history. It was then followed by a drought, which exacerbated the disaster’s effects.
A series of downpours filled the rivers and caused them to overflow, causing the event. As a result, property was destroyed, livestock was lost, and people died. According to Swain, a much larger cataclysmic event, such as the one that occurred in Sacramento, could occur again, but this time it could be much worse.
“Such a flood event in modern California would likely exceed the damages from a large magnitude earthquake by a considerable margin,” a study said. “We find that climate change has already increased the risk of a (1862) megaflood scenario in California, but that future climate warming will likely bring about even sharper risk increases,” it added.
“Ultimately, one of our goals is not just to understand these events scientifically, but it’s also to help California prepare for them. It’s a question of when rather than if (the megaflood) occurs,” Swain further stated.
“When this (flood) occurs again, the consequences would be wildly different than they were back in the 1860s,” Swain added.
Opinions expressed by CEO Weekly contributors are their own.