Warnings of super storm in California nothing but Internet hype

ARk storm

Warnings of a super storm in California turned out to be a hypothetical scenario discussed at the ARk Storm Summit. Image: CC Edward Hicks via Wikimedia Commons

Warnings of a super storm in California surged across the Internet Monday. A storm with the potential to dump 10 feet of rain and cause $300 billion in damage was discussed in a government press release published last Friday. But the California super storm was explained as merely a hypothetical scenario once the sensationalism subsided.

A California superstorm fit for an ARk

A super storm in California was the topic of a United States Geological Survey conference called the ARk Storm Summit held in Sacramento, Calif., Jan 13-14. A press release following the conference offered details about the potential of a devastating California superstorm. Based on historical data, a super storm in California is expected to occur about as often as a major earthquake. The ARk Storm Summit discussed the possible effects of historic California storms that occurred in January 1969 and February 1986 if they were to hit back-to-back.

ARk storm compared to category 5 hurricane

Researchers from the USGS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the California Emergency Management Agency determined that a super storm in California of that magnitude would overwhelm the state’s flood control and disaster response systems. A USGS scientist said few California residents realize that a super storm could be just as devastating as the category 5 hurricanes that hit the Gulf coast and southeastern Atlantic. The USGS recounted a storm in the winter of 1861-62 that lasted 45 days, turning California’s Central Valley into a lake 300 miles long and 20 miles wide that stretched from Sacramento to Bakersfield.

Super storm warnings merely media hype

The hypothetical super storm in California was labeled an “ARk storm” by the USGS because of severe wet weather systems called “atmospheric rivers,” or ARs. When the term ARk storm hit the Internet in the wake of heavy rains that plagued southern California in late December, sensational headlines started to appear. But a voice of reason emerged on a weather blog called The Weather Space. Meteorologist Kevin Martin called reporting on the California super storm “premature and irresponsible.” He reminded readers that the ARk Storm Summit discussed a scenario, not an actual storm.


New York Times


The Weather Space


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