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California Flooding vs. California Drought

Annabelle Wu

Since the first weekend of January, a series of violent rainstorms have caused heavy flash flooding in California, particularly the Northern Bay Area. Evacuation orders and road closures followed that week, especially as the risk of mudslides increased, and there have been major power outages and loss of natural wildlife. As of now, thousands of California residents are without power, schools and businesses are closed, streets have turned into rivers, and infrastructure has been damaged by falling trees, debris, and mud. Rescues have also risen as this natural disaster is reported to have already taken at least 17 lives.

This amount of rainfall is the result of a bomb cyclone in the Pacific Ocean, a storm that rapidly intensifies “over a short period of time”. It develops as a result of atmospheric moisture from warm Pacific water, and especially coming from Pacific Islands like Hawaii, these storm fronts are only further strengthened. This catastrophic event occurs in deep contrast to the extreme drought that the West Coast has faced for the past several years, but although rainfall is needed, it is still not enough to cover the damage done by the drought. While it may counter some short-term drought effects, the long-term impacts still reign over the Californian climate. Such a drastic turn between events of drought and storm, sometimes referred to as “weather whiplash”, are becoming increasingly common as a consequence of climate change. As the planet continues to warm anthropogenically, these natural disasters will continue to occur more frequently.


  1. Kohli, A. (2023, January 11). California flooding: 17 killed; millions under evacuation order. Time. Retrieved January 16, 2023, from

  2. Ramirez, R. (2023, January 4). California braces for more 'brutal' flooding and mudslides as experts warn it won't quench historic drought. CNN. Retrieved January 16, 2023, from

  3. Weber, C. (2023, January 10). California Deluge Forces Mass evacuations, Boy Swept away. AP NEWS. Retrieved January 16, 2023, from


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