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California’s crazy new climate

After extreme drought, the Golden State is now facing extreme flooding.


California is known for having a pleasant, Mediterranean climate. The movie industry, for example, chose Hollywood as the perfect filming location partly because of the weather: it’s always sunny and warm, so you can film outside all year round. America’s wine industry also developed in California because of its weather. Only the south-west of the state had a harsher desert climate. Here you can find Death Valley, considered the hottest place on Earth.

In the last few years, the climate has changed dramatically in California. The dry desert climate is spreading. A scientific study found that the period from 2000 to 2021 was the driest in 1,200 years. The droughts of recent years are considered by scientists ‘exceptional’. The study also estimated that the human-caused climate crisis has made the megadroughts 72% worse.

The beginning of 2023 saw new, dramatic developments. Many areas of California afflicted by months of drought were hit by huge storms that caused extreme floods. Incredibly, experts say, trying to stop flooding with levees (the barriers designed to contain the rivers in their beds) might have a negative impact on the next wave of droughts. They say that rivers should be allowed to overflow: all the extra water would seep into the ground and replenish the underground aquifers, an essential source of water during the super-dry summer months. Obviously, there’s a catch: if rivers are allowed to overflow, entire communities will be negatively affected.

It is hard to believe that to mitigate the negative consequences of one extreme weather event, one must let another run amok. It is a complicated situation, one of the many challenges presented to us by the current climate breakdown.

ACTIVITY: Write one of the following essays.

1) Describe the climate of where you live, and describe how it changes over the course of the year.
2) Have you ever experienced an extreme weather event? If you have, write about your experience.

(Carlo Dellonte)
(Image: California Department of Water Resources, public domain)

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