Friday January 6, 2023


Over a decade ago, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and state agencies developed the idea of the ARkStorm, an extreme storm and flood scenario for California based on previous rain events. A USGS video—disconcertingly set to hard rock music—created in 2010 and recently uploaded to YouTube paints a Biblical picture of what the devastating storm could potentially look like: “a fury rivaling that of hurricanes, beginning a process of destruction that will last for weeks.” As heavy storms caused by atmospheric rivers hit California this week–many regions are under flood warning—many are worried about the possibility of such a catastrophic event occurring now. So what is it, and is it really something you need to worry about?

An ARkStorm is a hypothetical scenario for California caused by a series of atmospheric rivers that drown much of the state with recurring rainstorms: “The storm is estimated to produce precipitation that in many places exceeds levels only experienced on average once every 500 to 1,000 years,” the USGS explains. “ARkStorm” stands for “Atmospheric River 1,000 years storm,” or, the type of storm that would occur roughly every thousand years. Climatologists have warned that climate change is making extreme weather more common, and California has been increasingly plagued by years’ worth of drought followed by intense rains that cause landslides in wildfire-tarnished landscapes, flooding of parched soil, etc. 

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