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The “Big One” is a potential threat, according to Californians. Many people think the tragedy is a devastating earthquake that would have destroyed most of California, causing property damage and human casualties. However, the “Big One” might instead be a megaflood rather than an earthquake, say experts.
According to a report, during the next 40 years, the likelihood of catastrophic floods has grown by a factor of two in the scientific research organization Science Advances. However, experts said that mankind has never experienced floods of the magnitude that might arise from climate change.
A megaflood, according to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist working on the project and a researcher from UCLA, is “a very severe flood event across a broad region that has the potential to bring catastrophic impacts to society in the areas affected.” He equated the megaflood to the once-in-a-thousand-year flash flood that swept through Kentucky and St. Louis but covers an area the size of the state of California instead.
A megaflood in California could be cyclic in nature, meaning it has happened before. Further, the megaflood has the potential to convert most of the state of California into a “vast inland sea.” The cycle of megafloods occurring in California may shorten to 25 to 50 years due to the intensifying effects of global warming.
Flash floods have regularly happened in Eastern Kentucky, St. Louis, and Death Valley National Park, even this summer. Heavy downpours, which are ultimately sparked by climate change, can be blamed for the increased frequency of flash floods.
Flash floods and other types of flooding are nothing new to the state of California, as they frequently occur when heavy rains cause rivers to rise to the maximum and overflow. The possibility of a megaflood is increased by the consequences of climate change, which magnify the volume of rainfall.
Possible epicenter of the damage
Researchers discovered that the California Central Valley, which includes Bakersfield, Fresno, and Sacramento, would see the greatest destruction. The information is derived from a study that maps the distribution of water vapor over the region in a 30-day window and potential precipitation accumulation.
Food supply shortages may occur if the Central Valley is washed out by the megaflood, according to the US Geological Survey, as the region supplies more than a quarter of the nation’s food supply.
The megaflood’s consequences will be felt all around the nation. Research found that the Orange and Los Angeles counties will sustain significant damage from the megaflood, with costs potentially reaching $1 trillion. In addition, the tragedy would surpass Hurricane Katrina as the costliest disaster in US history by a factor of five.
A megaflood before could not square up with the next one
One of the most destructive floods in American history occurred in the Golden State more than 150 years ago. The repercussions of the tragedy were then made worse by a subsequent drought.
A succession of downpours filled the rivers and forced them to overflow, which is what triggered the disaster. Property was damaged, animals were killed, and lives were lost as a result. Swain believes that an even more catastrophic occurrence, comparable to the one that occurred in Sacramento, could occur in the future.
“Such a flood event in modern California would likely exceed the damages from a large magnitude earthquake by a considerable margin,” said one study. “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 stated.
“When this (flood) occurs again, the consequences would be wildly different than they were back in the 1860s,” he further said.