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It matters what you believe

05 Apr 2023 | OP ED Watch

California’s weather woes continue. Which is not surprising if you know that the Golden State has had extreme weather as far back as anyone can tell and then some. Despite which NBC declares that “California’s unexpected siege of wet weather after years of drought also included February blizzards powered by arctic air.” (A phrase somebody at NBC liked so much they cut and pasted.) Why was it unexpected? Didn’t they know it rains in Southern California? The answer is that they believed the climate alarmist claptrap about never-ending drought and failed to prepare for what really happened.

It may not count as evidence in the sense that Michael Mann would accept. But in the Nero Wolfe mystery Murder by the Book written in 1951, protagonist Archie Goodwin goes to California and gets rained on non-stop. And as we’ve noted, historical accounts from the 19th century portray a comically awful alternation of apocalyptic drought and apocalyptic flooding. So you’d think people who live there, and who report on the place, would know about it.

Apparently not. They’re really convinced that climate is simple, linear and on fire due to human arson. Even when the evidence says otherwise. Thus:

“‘Water management in California is complicated, and it’s made even more complex during these challenging climate conditions where we see swings between very, very dry; very, very wet; back to dry,’ Karla Nemeth, director of the Department of Water Resources, said at a Friday briefing. ‘We’re now back into wet.’”

We’re glad she got the last bit right. But does she really not know, despite her job title, that it’s always been that way and that intelligent water management in one of the richest states in one of the richest nations history has ever seen ought to involve building infrastructure capable of capturing the heavy rain- and snow-fall in wet years and hanging onto it for the dry ones?

Of course California does have a lot of water infrastructure:

“California counts on a system of about 1,400 human-made surface reservoirs and thousands upon thousands of miles of levees to manage surface water. About two dozen large reservoirs are responsible for more than half of the overall storage.”

It’s just not managed very well, perhaps because the people in charge are fighting purple dragons in the sky instead of focusing on their day jobs.

Among those dragons is the newly trendy “atmospheric rivers”. We hardly need to mention that the story we started with spoke of “the state’s extraordinary winter” and tactfully omitted “climate.” Nor is it surprising that it says:

“The National Weather Service said the storm is a Pacific low pressure system interacting with California’s 12th atmospheric river since late December.”

Another had:

“As a series of atmospheric rivers pummeled California with heavy rain and residents braced for potential flooding, on Friday the state began releasing millions of gallons of water from a major reservoir – despite ongoing drought conditions.”

Back in the day it rained. And it rained because of atmospheric rivers, as it always has. But nobody thought it meant we’d broken the planet, or just this part of it. They thought it was raining hard again.

Also, if you’re wondering why a state that had suffered a drought and would almost certainly do so again was spilling out water instead of conserving it, well, you should be. So should they. California may be in the hands of people apparently determined to ruin it in every imaginable way from fiscal to social to ecological. But it’s still odd.

Meanwhile nature brought record or near-record snow, not exactly what the naïve would expect from global heating. One of the stories above actually said:

“An atmospheric river known as the ‘Pineapple Express’ because it carries warm, subtropical moisture across the Pacific from near Hawaii, is expected to melt snow at lower elevations. California's mountain ranges have built up significant snowpack this winter because of an onslaught of rain from nine atmospheric rivers and from storms fueled by blasts of arctic air.”

Snow? Blasts of arctic air? What can it all mean?

Duh. One story noted that:

“Of the state’s 17 major reservoirs, seven are still below their historical averages this year. Water releases are also expected at Friant Dam, in central California, to free up space in Millerton Lake, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.”

Simple math suggests that the 10 others are not below their historical averages. More complicated math suggests that you’re going to have wet and dry years and should dig big holes to store the water from the former so the latter aren’t as miserable as they were 200 years ago.

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