By Consuelo Ramirez

The death toll rises to 19, during the weather crisis that continues to destroy California. For over a month now, California has endured harsh weather due to atmospheric rivers caused heavily by climate change.

California ended 2022 with record-breaking rainfall, mudslides, and sinkholes. Families have lost power and homes due to flooding. Governor Newson called out a state of emergency saying, “We expect these storms to continue at least through the 18th of this month.” With no indication of when these storms will end, people are scared and worried of what is still to come.

California Geological Survey has reported that over 500 landslides have been mapped since December 30th, 2022. Snow storms have only made matters worse, increasing the damages in the west coast.

Flooding caused by major storms, Credit: CBC

What is the cause?
According to Scripps, global greenhouse gas emissions are the cause for these atmospheric rivers. An increase in global greenhouse gasses intensifies atmospheric rivers. Atmospheric rivers are ‘rivers in the sky’ that hold a significant amount of water vapor. They are caused by cold fronts that sweep up water vapor in the warm sector as it catches up with the warm front. California has always been a target for atmospheric rivers, but now more than ever.

Now, what are greenhouse gases? Greenhouse gases are a form of heat that is trapped in our atmosphere. A few greenhouse gasses include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and fluorinated gasses. Earth needs greenhouse gasses to provide a balanced temperature, and to create a blanket protecting the atmosphere. According to scientists, without greenhouse gasses, the temperature on earth would drop significantly. But in recent years, there has been an increase in greenhouse gasses; primarily, carbon dioxide. There is a large amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which has led to global warming.

Over the years earth’s climate has been slightly changing, and these slight changes have affected the world substantially. Precipitation is one of the effects that climate change has caused. In some areas, precipitation has increased, while in others it has decreased. Because of the rise in temperature, more natural disasters, like atmospheric rivers are occurring. Although they have always been deadly, they have and will continue to get more powerful.

What can we do?
Environmental scientists have always pushed these ideas, and it’s important the world begins to follow them, before more disasters, like California’s weather crisis’ occurs. So how can you help?

Driving less and using public transportation is one of the biggest ways we can reduce carbon dioxide on earth. If people were to ride bikes, walk, or even ride together, there would be fewer fossil fuels burning.

Reducing, reusing, and recycling, are the three R’s. While it seems like doing these three things is small, it helps reduce energy.

Using less electricity, and opting for fuels that do not burn fossil fuels are two ways that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For now?
California is facing one of the worst natural disasters in recent years. With global warming and climate change being one of the biggest issues around the world, it is time people begin to think about what the future may look like if they do not act now.