The Great Flood of 1862 could repeat itself

  • New research suggests climate change increases the likelihood of a massive California “megaflood,” akin to the Great Flood of 1862.
  • That disaster, brought on by more than 40 days of constant rain, led to the death of 4,000.
  • Flood waters in that disaster created an “inland sea” 300 miles long and 60 miles wide in some places.

A new study is raising raises concerns about climate change-fueled floods dropping massive amounts of water on drought-plagued California – an unlikely sounding scenario that has actually happened before.

While intense droughts, wildfires and earthquakes are typically the main concern across the West, the study released Friday warned of another crisis looming in California: “Megafloods.” It notes climate change is increasing the risk of floods that could submerge cities and displace millions of people across the state. It says an extreme monthlong storm could bring feet of rain – in some places, more than 100 inches – to hundreds of miles of California.

While the scenario might sound like something out of a movie, it’s happened before.

California has experienced severe floods throughout the 20th Century, including in 1969, 1986, and 1997. But a flood from farther in the past – the Great Flood of 1862 – is being eyed by researchers as the threat to California grows by the day.

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