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Bomb Cyclones and Atmospheric Rivers: How Climate Change Worsens Storms

If you live in the United States or have been paying attention to the weather patterns, you know that this has been a harsh winter. Firstly, a massive storm that stretched from Maine to Texas tore through the country over the holidays, causing power outages in 1.4 million homes and businesses. The National Weather Service described this storm as a “once in a generation” event, and the storm was dubbed a bomb cyclone. Right after this, California, which mostly escaped the bomb cyclone, was hit by a barrage of storms dubbed an atmospheric river, which caused major flooding across the state. This storm dumped an estimated 32.6 trillion gallons of water in three weeks, killing 21 people and causing $1 billion in damages statewide. Also, all of this water hardly refilled California’s bone-dry reservoirs, as years of terrible drought have made them so low that it would take years of storms of this magnitude to replenish them completely. It seems like every year or two there is some kind of ‘once-in-a-lifetime storm.’ The reason for this is that there actually is a ‘once-in-a-lifetime storm’ of some kind every few years now.

Climate change does not just increase global temperatures. It also makes extreme weather events more frequent and more ferocious (and destructive). This means that once-in-a-lifetime weather events will now be once every 50 years, or 20 years, or 10, or 5. We need to build more resilient areas that can handle this increase in storms. Climate change is happening, so we need to prepare. But more importantly, we have to stop climate change. We can build all we want, but if we don’t stop climate change, things will continue to get worse, and we will be stuck playing catch-up. Additionally, not everywhere has the money or resources to rebuild after every storm, so letting climate change worsen would also be letting inequality worsen. We need to view these storms as a warning for what’s to come, and halt climate change before things get even worse.

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