Climate change: California's drought and England's floods.

The recent NOAA map above illustrates an unprecedented pattern of precipitation. Almost the entire country is shown at above normal precipitation while California has had below normal rainfall. Most of California is now parched, baked and dried far beyond any historical precedent. Reservoirs are nearly empty, streams are drying up, and forests are dying by the day. Catastrophic fires will also continue to decimate California.  

The true severity of the drought in the west is not accurately reflected in the “drought monitor” map above. The actual conditions on the ground are worse. California has been descending into drought for 7 years now. This season to date there has been no significant rain at all. 

As California sees the future impacts of climate change playing out in the form of epic drought on one side of the globe, across the map in the U.K. residents are seeing an opposite but related climate effect: Severe and unprecedented flooding. According to the world’s longest-running weather station, the Radcliffe Meteorological Station at Oxford University, more rain fell there in January than during any winter month since daily recording started in 1767. Total rainfall last month was around 5.8 inches, more than three times the average.
It doesn’t look like February will bring much respite from the deluge. “There will be more wet and windy weather from the Atlantic this week,” Met Office forecaster Callum MacColl told the Guardian. Last week U.K. Environment Minister Owen Paterson ordered for a plan that creates a long-term solution to deal with the flooding, as efforts to keep the damages at bay tested the limits of the country’s Environment Agency’s resources. The Environment Agency has issued nine severe flood warnings — the highest level of alert — in parts of Southern England and Wales where up to 1.2 inches of rain is scheduled to fall over the weekend. The Agency considers lives to be in danger and is discussing the option of deploying military amphibious vehicles with the Ministry of Defense to help those in need. Flooding is expected to be the greatest threat of a changing climate posed to the country, according to a 2012 report published by the U.K.’s environment department. “We are seeing more extreme temperatures and more intense rainfall events around the world,” Dr. Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at the Met Office Hadley Centre, told The Telegraph. “The expectation in a warming world is for an increased frequency of heatwaves and greater moisture in a warmer atmosphere is expected to lead extreme precipitation events, more intense and more frequent.”

Dr Richard Dixon, director of FES Scotland when commenting in a Guardian interview about the most recent spate of anomalous UK weather noted:
“November and December were record breakers in Scotland, with storm after storm hitting around Christmas. Climate change is bringing chaos to our weather, not just increasing global temperatures but affecting ocean currents and global air currents. Scotland is caught between the changing influences of disappearing Arctic ice, the shifting jet stream and a weakening Gulf Stream. It is no wonder our weather is becoming less and less predictable. The consequences for us are more extreme weather, including more flooding.”
Very Dangerous Flood Situation for Southeast England: Powerful Storm on the Way
The extreme rainfall, as of today, had resulted in a major flood event for Southeast England focusing on the Midlands and Somerset. The event inundated croplands, homes and farms throughout the rural region and spurred England to put its military on standby as forecasts show more rain and high winds are on the way. The anomalous event also spurred the 15th meeting of COBRA, the UK’s emergency response committee which has, increasingly, been called due to a continuous barrage of weather emergencies.

 It is worth noting that, though more intense than we’re used to, these storms are the early, weaker outliers of a very dangerous period that is to follow. Our best models and our best climate scientists report the likelihood of far more dangerous storms emerging from this region and from the set of conditions that includes a weakening Gulf Stream, a melting Greenland, an amped up hydrological cycle and rapidly warming zones first at the northern polar region and then in the tropics. The eventual size of these storms could expand to cover continents and involve multiple linked and powerful storm centers. As noted above, Hansen warned of frontal storms large enough to blanket continents and with areas of hurricane strength winds stretching thousands of miles. We haven’t seen anything like that yet. And so the freakish and extraordinary weather we’ve witnessed this winter, and in recent years, is merely prologue for worse events to follow.