Reef or More Scope for the Coming California Megastorm?
Is it time to reef, put on storm sails, or let out more scope? According to the New York Times there’s a California megastorm headed our way. The only problem is we don’t know when or even if. The story outlines how research scientists have found clearer evidence of megastorms appearing periodically over the centuries and, with the current trajectory of climate change, they believe their likelihood only increases. The result will be storms that allow forecasters to gasp with some of their favorite, gripping terms such as atmospheric river, bomb cyclone, and pineapple express. It does sound ominous.
Yet we are all sailors, and one thing you learn to respect as a sailor is Mother Nature. The last thing we’d do is scoff at weather predictions, suggest that we know better about what Mother Nature is up to, or think about turning our back on such warnings. We’re in the midst of a 20-year drought, and here in Marin, our reservoirs were running woefully low last winter. It didn’t rain much, but one large storm just about filled them up. Great luck, and we hope it continues.
The projected cause of a future megastorm is the warming planet — it lets the atmosphere hold more water vapor, and changing air currents may send this vapor north, where it collides with the coast, heads skyward, and turns into heavy rain or snow or both. As the Times describes, “This vapor plume will be enormous, hundreds of miles wide and more than 1,200 miles long, and seething with ferocious winds. It will be carrying so much water that if you converted it all to liquid, its flow would be about 26 times what the Mississippi River discharges into the Gulf of Mexico at any given moment.” Yikes.
If you’re a skier or a farmer, or sell dock lines and chafing gear, this could sound awesome. Maybe it will be. On the other hand, if you’re a marina operator or an insurance agent, or your farm is behind a levee in the California Delta, there’s plenty to worry about.
However, there’s the whole issue of timing. Is this something we should worry about this winter, or not in our lifetime? Even though weather forecasters are often wrong, we do take them seriously. We’re often wrong too, so few take us seriously.
The projected storms will threaten levees, dams, sailors and essentially all California infrastructure. We’re never sure how much we should be alarmed and prepare for possible planetary events, but we do know Mother Nature will have the final say. It’s always wise for sailors to pay close attention to the weather. We’ll hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Doom and Gloom, the sky is falling……. Enjoy it while we can.