Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Scientists warn of 'superstorm' heading for California


US Geological Survey scientists predict that the storm could last 40 days, producing up to 10-feet of rain and causing £190 billion ($300 billion) worth of flooding damage, which would make it the most destructive storm in California's modern history.
National Weather Service images show an atmospheric river system - a huge hose-like flow of Pacific Ocean moisture - moving onto the state increasing the risk of the winter weather phenomenon.
The storm scenario, combining prehistoric geologic flood history with modern flood mapping and climate-change projections, was released at an ARkStorm Summit in Sacramento, California last week.
The scenario suggests that a quarter of houses in the Golden State could be battered by flooding.
Weather experts say the statewide weather event, which strikes once every 100-200 years could bring an unprecedented scale of destruction. There is also a considerable risk of wind damage to the eastern part of the state, according to chief scientist Lucy Jones.
The last superstorm hit California between 1861 and 1862, but scientists predict that the threat of another one looms closer as weather patterns become more volatile, due to rising temperatures in the atmosphere.
US Geological Survey Director, Marcia McNutt said: "The time to begin taking action is now, before a devastating natural hazard event occurs. This scenario demonstrates firsthand how science can be the foundation to help build safer communities. The ARkStorm scenario is a scientifically vetted tool that emergency responders, elected officials and the general public can use to plan for a major catastrophic event to help prevent a hazard from becoming a disaster."
Jones added: "This is not just a Californian problem. There will be disruption to ports and transportation systems. The economic impact will be felt across the country."
"For a storm which can cause four times as much damage as earthquakes, Californians are less aware of risks they face from floods."
Federal and state emergency management officials met last week to discuss emergency preparations for possible superstorms.

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