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Experts warn California of a catastrophe “greater than any in world history”. It is not an earthquake.

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“Massive drought” may be the main concern about the weather across the West right now amid the continuing threat of wildfires and earthquakes. But a new study warns of another looming crisis in California: “Megafloods.”

Climate change increases the risk of future floods that could inundate multiple cities and displace millions of people across California, according to a new study released Friday.

It says a severe month-long storm can bring feet of rain — in some places, more than 100 inches — to hundreds of miles of California. Likewise, relentless storms have occurred in the past, before the area became home to tens of millions of people.

The study says that each degree of global warming greatly increases the possibilities and size of the next mega-flux.

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“The storm sequence is larger in almost all respects,” said Daniel Swain, a UCLA climate scientist and co-author of the study, in a press release, in a future scenario, in which the flood comes in hotter land. “There’s more rain overall, heavier rain every hour and stronger winds.”

Satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe Thursday, February 28, 2019, shows the Russian River inundating Grenville, California.

Climate change is a factor in amplifying floods

In fact, the study found that climate change makes such catastrophic floods twice as likely to occur.

Swain said that such massive statewide floods have occurred every century or two in California over the past millennia, and the current risks of such events have been greatly underestimated.

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Long before climate change, the California Great Flood of 1862 stretched 300 miles and 60 miles wide. According to the study, a similar flood will now displace 5 to 10 million people, cut off major state highways for weeks or possibly months with massive economic impacts, and inundate major Central Valley cities as well as parts of Los Angeles.

The story continues

The study expands on the 2010 “ArkStorm scenario,” named after the atmospheric rivers that might have fed the flood — and it’s of biblical proportions. This is the first part of a plan to return to this scenario, known as ArkStorm 2.0.

California’s massive flood would be a trillion dollar disaster

It is estimated that a flood like the one in 1862 would be a trillion-dollar disaster, according to the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Parts of cities such as Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno, and Los Angeles will be underwater even with today’s vast array of reservoirs, dams, and sidewalks. It is estimated that it will be a trillion-dollar disaster, greater than any in world history,” the statement said.

With droughts and wildfires getting so much attention, Swain said in the statement that Californians may have lost sight of severe flooding. “There is the potential for bad wildfires every year in California, but many years go by when there is no news of major floods. People forget that.

The researchers used new, high-resolution weather models and existing climate models to compare two extreme scenarios, according to the University of California at Los Angeles: one that will occur approximately once every century in the recent historical climate and the other in the projected climate of 2081-2100.

Both would involve a long series of atmospheric river-fed storms over the course of a month.

What are atmospheric rivers?

Atmospheric rivers are ribbons of water vapor that stretch thousands of miles from the tropics to the western United States. At 250 to 375 miles wide, they provide fuel for the torrential rains and snowstorms that can cause flooding along the West Coast.

While beneficial to water supplies, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said, they can wreak havoc on travel, cause deadly mudslides and cause catastrophic damage to life and property.

Studies show that climate change will make atmospheric rivers warmer, more intense, and more frequent.

The study was published Friday in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: New Study Says ‘Megafloods’ Could Devastate California

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