California Awaits ‘Big Melt,’ Flooding, as Temperatures Rise

California big melt Tulare Lake (George Rose / Getty)
George Rose / Getty

California is about to begin the “big melt” — the thawing of trillions of gallons of frozen water, currently sitting atop the Sierra Nevada mountains and about to make its way down into the Central Valley floodplain.

As the San Francisco Chronicle warns, this year’s swollen rivers “are going to run much higher, faster, colder and for longer than they normally would, posing risks to the hordes of summer lovers who raft, kayak, swim and fish them.”

Already, heavy rainfall and the beginning of the spring thaw have caused a historic freshwater body, Lake Tulare, to reemerge in the southern Central Valley, flooding many farms and cutting off roads.

As the Fresno Bee notes:

As temperatures warm up over the coming days across the central San Joaquin Valley, weather experts are predicting that a record snowpack in the southern Sierra Nevada will see an accelerated pace of melting, potentially adding to flooding woes on the Valley floor.

“The Big Melt is now officially arriving this weekend,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA who has been monitoring the snow accumulation and snowmelt flood potential in California’s mountain ranges. “Flows on many rivers draining the central/southern Sierra will double or triple (with locally greater increases) as temperatures rise.

“Some rivers will exceed flood stage, and Tulare Basin flooding will worsen,” Swain said in a social media post Thursday.

The Los Angeles Times notes that predicted cooler temperatures in May could at least slow the thaw and limit the damage, or give local authorities and residents more time to prepare.

The winter of 2022-23 was one of the rainiest and snowiest in recent decades, with over a dozen “atmospheric rivers” hitting the state, defying predictions of a third consecutive dry winter and relieving a crushing drought.

Ski resorts plan to stay open through midsummer in many places, and residents and tourists alike are enjoying spectacular spring blooms and waterfall hikes. But there are also worries about what extensive flooding could do to the local agricultural economy and global food supplies and prices.

Fears of flooding are compounded by frustration that the state has not managed to build new infrastructure to store the water for future dry seasons.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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