Emergencies like Oroville Dam will Happen More Often
Climate change puts stress on water infrastructure systems and causes more evaporation and precipitation in form of rain and less in snow. This all leads to other emergencies similar to Oroville dam.
The combination of factors lead to emergency state at Oroville dam.
Environmental groups had warned the state back in 2005 that the Oroville dam emergency spillway could erode and suggested getting it coated with concrete. The state decided the costs are too high compared to the probability of such a wet season and disregarded this warning.
However, climate change has increased the risks of extreme weather conditions.
California is currently in the wettest recorded rainy season – twice as wet as the average in the 20th century and 35% wetter than the previous record year.
Prior to this, there was the most intense drought in California in the past 1200 years and it lasted for full 5 years. The drought intensity was magnified by 15-35% due to increased water demand and more evaporation because of higher temperatures.
Research has proven that shifts between wet and hot and dry year in California are becoming a regular occurrence.
It is expected that rainfall will be amplified since higher temperatures will cause the water to evaporate quicker and easier, making the water vapor influence the atmospheric rivers and therefore rainfall. The storms will be more intense and more frequent.
It is important to note that increased wetness has not yet officially been confirmed by research, but is compatible with the predictions of rising temperatures.
The temperature of the Earth’s surface has risen for about 075 °C resulting in 5% more evaporation and intensified storms. Due to hotter temperatures, less precipitation falls as snow and the portion that does melts much earlier in the year causing more winter runoff. This, in combination with more rain puts stress on dams and the water infrastructure in general.
Dams in the US were built 50 years ago for conditions back then. With the changes happening, there is increased risk of floods.
In conclusion, we should come up with and apply innovative water management strategies since there is a variety of indirect climate change consequences.