Thinking Citizen Blog — Will the “Big One” Be a “Super Storm” and Not an Earthquake?

Thinking Citizen Blog — Wednesday is Climate Change, the Environment, and Sustainability Day

Today’s Topic: Will the “Big One” Be a “Super Storm” and Not an Earthquake?

California has many pluses and many minuses. But until this weekend I had never considered that the possibility of a “monthlong super storm” was one worth weighing in the balance. Apparently, the chances of such a disaster happening in any one year is about one in 50 and “the likelihood keeps growing the more we pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.” Today, a few excerpts from a New York Times article that sent shivers down my spine. Then I asked myself; where exactly is the line between sensationalism and respectable journalism? Has it been crossed? or not? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. Warmer air holds more moisture, which means atmospheric rivers — the storms that sweep in from the Pacific and are sometimes called “Pineapple Express” events — can carry bigger payloads of precipitation.”

2. “California has been struck by giant atmospheric-river-fueled storms before. A particularly devastating one in 1861–62 transformed the Central Valley into an inland sea.”

3. “Sacramento was flooded so severely that Gov. Leland Stanford had to take a rowboat to his inaugural events in January 1862. The State Legislature also temporarily moved to San Francisco.”

NB: “The state has since dammed up its rivers and built bypasses to whisk floodwaters away from population centers. If that 19th-century storm hit today, all of this infrastructure would make it less likely to cause destruction. Still, the state is also far more developed — with bigger cities, more valuable farms and businesses, and many more people — which means the consequences could still be great.”

WHAT IS BEING DONE? Mapping, levee construction

1. “The Department of Water Resources is planning to use the new scientific findings to update the state’s flood plans. With the help of supercomputers, they will map out in detail how all of that precipitation will flow through waterways and over land.”

2. “California is also working to strengthen levees in urban areas of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys to provide protection against 200-year storms, or those with a 0.5 percent chance of occurring in any year.”

IS IT WORTH THINKING ABOUT? Bad for mental health? a civic responsibility? a prudent thing to do?

1. “As I found while reporting this interactive story, however, there’s another side to all of these preparations, which is that they’ve turned flood risk into something many Californians never think about.”

2. “On one level, that’s progress: Most of us have better things to do each day than worry about nature’s wrath. But there are also perils to not thinking you live in a danger zone.”

3. “You might ignore evacuation orders, downplay storm forecasts, decline flood insurance.”

NB: “When the government is involved with these levees, most homeowners trust that we’re doing the right thing, and that it’s safe for them to put their life savings in a home,” (Ricardo Pineda, retired engineer for the state) What do you think? Is the risk priced in?

FOOTNOTE — THE BIBLICAL ANALOGY (see fourth link below)

1. Noah and NOAA.

2. Monthlong storm — well that’s approximately 40 days and 40 nights. (Good enough for government work…)

3. “This apocalyptic beast is specifically aimed at California and I, personally, have already gathered two of every kind of animal I deem important: pigs for company, dogs for meat, and gerbils for entertainment.”

NB: Image above is of Sacramento in 1862.


PDF with headlines — Google Drive


#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20PDF with headlines — Google Drive

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

YOUR TURN — Please share:

a.) the coolest thing you learned this week related to сlimate, nature or geography

b.) the coolest thing you learned in your life related to сlimate, nature or geography

c.) anything at all related to сlimate, nature or geography

d.) anything at all

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