California is Home to Extreme Weather, Too

The state won’t see a superstorm like Hurricane Sandy, but UC Merced researchers monitoring precipitation and snowpack say weather can have comparable effects

MERCED, Calif. — California isn’t going to face a superstorm like Hurricane Sandy because the Pacific Ocean is too cold to feed that kind of weather system.

But that doesn’t mean California won’t see extreme weather, say researchers from the University of California, Merced.

A satellite image shows winter snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.

“We can see very big storms, and there are a couple of issues related to climate change to think about,” said Roger Bales, director of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute. “Most of our biggest storms are snow storms, which builds up snowpack in the mountains. The snowpack is a reservoir, storing water that will be used throughout the year across the state.

“But if you warm the climate,” he said, “those storms become rain events – there’s more immediate runoff, less water storage, and the rain will actually melt some of the existing snowpack.”

 

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A satellite image shows winter snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.


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