Graduate student Sol Kim publishes How to Start Adapting to California’s “Precipitation Whiplash”
Much of California enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate where the weather typically swings like a pendulum from warm, dry summers to cool, wet winters. Year-to-year, this pendulum can swing with great variation. If it doesn’t swing toward rain and snow between October and March, it leads to drought; if it does, we might see record-breaking precipitation. In the dry season the pendulum can swing too far into fire weather, creating hot, dry, and windy conditions prime for wildfires.
While the pendulum has always swung here, there’s evidence that its swings are now getting more dramatic, and anyone who’s lived here in the last few years has seen it firsthand. Between 2012-2016, California was baked by a persistent and intense drought. The drought ended in record-breaking, torrential precipitation during the winter of 2017, which resulted in statewide flooding and the evacuation of 200,000 people living beneath the Oroville dam. The following year, a swing into the dry extremes during the summer months combined with a delayed start to fall precipitation led to intense fire weather, and record-breaking wildfires raged throughout California into Thanksgiving. We’re living it again in the fall of 2019, as unusually dry weather continues well into November, typically the start of the rainy season.