California super floods, lessons from the past

A 43-day storm that began in December 1861 put central and southern California underwater for up to six months, and it could happen again so goes the headline story from a 2013 Scientific American article. We knew sooner of later the Oroville Dam problem would be laid at the feet of Global Warming, if not George Bush. It turns out California has a long history of major drought followed by massive flooding. It is a great read and well worth the time. First the fake news warning:

Nonexistent Global Warming Crisis Blamed for Trouble at Oroville Dam “Oroville Is a Warning for California Dams, as Climate Change Adds Stress,” the New York Times reported.
Broken California Dam Is a Sign of Emergencies to Come,” reads an article published in Scientific American, adding that “[c]limate change is leading to more extreme rainfalls that can overwhelm infrastructure.”


California has a history of abruptly switching from drought conditions to torrential rain.

Brewer describes a great sheet of brown rippling water extending from the Coast Range to the Sierra Nevada. One-quarter of the state’s estimated 800,000 cattle drowned in the flood, marking the beginning of the end of the cattle-based ranchero society in California. One-third of the state’s property was destroyed, and one home in eight was destroyed completely or carried away by the floodwaters.california-b

The Coming Megafloods, talks about what is responsible for most of the largest historical floods in many western states. The megaflood to strike the American West in recent history occurred during the winter of 1861-62. California bore the brunt of the damage. This disaster turned enormous regions of the state into inland seas for months, and took thousands of human lives. The costs were devastating: one quarter of California’s economy was destroyed, forcing the state into bankruptcy.

Today, the same regions that were submerged in 1861-62 are home to California’s fastest-growing cities. Although this flood is all but forgotten, important lessons from this catastrophe can be learned. Much of the insight can be gleaned from harrowing accounts in diary entries, letters and newspaper articles, as well as the book Up and Down California in 1860-1864, written by William Brewer, who surveyed the new state’s natural resources with state geologist Josiah Whitney.

In 1861, farmers and ranchers were praying for rain after two exceptionally dry decades. In December their prayers were answered with a vengeance, as a series of monstrous Pacific storms slammed—one after another—into the West coast of North America, from Mexico to Canada. The storms produced the most violent flooding residents had ever seen, before or since.

Story over at Scientific American


12 Responses to “California super floods, lessons from the past”

  1. The Weekly Headlines – My Daily Musing – Br Andrew's Muses Says:

    […] California super floods, lessons from the past […]


  2. The Weekly Headlines – My Daily Musing Says:

    […] California super floods, lessons from the past […]


  3. petermc3 Says:

    The Farmers Almanac relies on natural patterns. For example: Did you know a halo around the sun could mean upcoming rainfall? Is there an abundance of acorns in your area, and are squirrels gathering them up? A hard winter might be ahead. It sounds a hell of a lot saner than the faux science pushed by faux scientists most of who have sold out to the global warming cartels. Any fool who took earth science in the second grade and was taught an overview of the scientific method, back when american public schools were the envy of the world, knows we are suffering fools, these so called experts who as Mustang pointed out the do not employ the “scientific method”; it has no place in their self serving agenda. Follow the money.

    Liked by 1 person

    • bunkerville Says:

      We are long past the point of scientific inquiry. Rather similar to a period when the Catholic church locked up Galieo for heresy. Soon the deniers of the Progressive faith will wind up with the same fate.


  4. Mustang Says:

    Excellent post. What I find interesting is that we have in the field of science individuals who title themselves as experts in such fields as the effects of global warming who have failed to employ the scientific method in establishing their hypotheses. The problem, or so it seems to me, is the effort among educationalists to revise history to suit their own personal (political) agenda. If we take a look at history unmolested by faux science, we find (as you have stated) historic precedents for such things as flooding. It is an easily discernible event cycle … as is the warming and cooling of the earth for (we believe) the past 4.5 billion years. It is hardly something we should get our nickers in a bunch about but there you have it. I was speaking just today about the tendency in America (and other western nations) to redefine our history such that it no longer plays an important role in understanding who we have become, or why, or how. History then is an important but missing piece of the puzzle. Today our actual history has been replaced by irrelevant course offerings that, in the final analysis, do not lend themselves to a better understanding of geology, weather phenomena, etc. Result? Faux science that fails to solve any problems whatsoever and a society that doesn’t understand its underlining dangers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • bunkerville Says:

      Very true. If one reads the whole article, it turns out the Native American Indians for hundreds of years were able to discern when it was likely for the floods were likely to come based on their reading of nature and moved to higher ground. Elsewhere I read that scientists have looked at the rings of the trees and can tell that for a thousand years there have been the same decades of droughts followed by enormous amounts of rain.


  5. petermac3 Says:

    Here in Northern NJ the flood plain bordering the Passaic River flooded in the 1980’s destroying property and people’s lives. Prior to this event nature was ignored and over deelopement proceeded uninterrupted until disaster struck. Where was the Army Corp of Engineers?
    Quick aside: Homeowners, ho after battling In court for years to have a dried up relic of a ditch in Dumont, NJ, running the length of two city blocks taken off the map as a flood zone which had required home owners bordering it to have flood insurance, finally won their battle with the exaulted Army Corps of Engineers which finally relented and removed the flood zone designation. The one constant is bureaucracy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • bunkerville Says:

      Everyone wants to live near water. Water can be unpredictable and goes its own way. Towns spring up, and sooner or later the piper is played.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Just Simply Linda Says:

    Out little town here in NY was flooded severely in the 70’s and the town has since been built on a series of canals thanks to the snow run off from the creeks/mountains. My husband said he remembers being pulled out of a window the water was so high. ANYWAYS—agree with Brittus.

    Liked by 1 person

    • bunkerville Says:

      In the 1950’s our area was flooded as well in N.E. PA. We all want to live near water, or towns have a tendency to do that. Either way, water and people are not a good mix. California between earthquakes and flooding and drought is a problem State


  7. Brittius Says:

    Reblogged this on Brittius and commented:
    Personally, I believe natural events run pretty much in some form of cycles. Here, the “Hundred Year Flood”, was early, at 74 years ( 1938 to 2012), but fairly on schedule, if other natural events are factored in. Earth is in motion. Weather patterns. The influence of the sun. The influence of the moon. Man.
    I am curious of a shift in earth’s axis, that would fill the Grand Canyon with water, again. But that would probably also flood out a lot of land around here (NYS). Another thing would be if New Madrid Fault, upended. Loss of the midwest? Nobody’s panicking. What I really look for, and little interest is given by most, is the underground potable water situation.

    Liked by 2 people

    • bunkerville Says:

      The army corp of engineers in last century never met a stream of water it didn’t want to damn. When they say a 100 year flood plane that means a flood about every 100 yeas. This article goes back to when the Native American Indians dealt with these floods and learned how to read the warning signs of upcoming flooding.

      Liked by 3 people

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