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News > U.S.

California Continues to Witness Rare, Violent Weather

  • A street in Santa Rosa, California, U.S., March 22, 2023.

    A street in Santa Rosa, California, U.S., March 22, 2023. | Photo: Twitter/ @Bakilio

Published 24 March 2023

"Climate change has its fingerprint all over this," said Andrew Schwartz, lead scientist with the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Laboratory.

California continues to be battered by violent weather as its Los Angeles area was hit by a rare tornado on Wednesday, the strongest one to impact the LA Metro area since March 1983.


Death Toll From Storms in California, US Rises to 17

The tornado "briefly touched down" in an industrial park and warehouse district in the city of Montebello in the late morning hours of Wednesday, according to the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS).

Seventeen structures were damaged and 11 structures had significant damage. A tree was uprooted and a power pole was snapped with the transformer ripped off. Cars were damaged with windows destroyed. At least one person was injured after a rare tornado hit the city.

On Tuesday evening, a weak tornado hit a mobile home park in Carpinteria, a seaside city northwest of Los Angeles. The tornado led to metal carport damage, windows breaking and metal roofs ripping off.

Tornadoes are rare in California, with fewer than 10 per year on average, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Most tornadoes in the state are small and short-lived.

At least five people died due to a storm in the San Francisco Bay Area as fierce winds lashed cities on Tuesday, toppling trees and power lines. The wind and rain from San Francisco Bay south to Monterey Bay was caused by an extraordinary drop in barometric pressure over the eastern Pacific that meteorologists described as "explosive cyclogenesis."

Poised off of California is a system that will wallop the Southwest to the Rockies with heavy rain, mountain snow, and high winds. The intense weather came as California has been hammered by at least 12 atmospheric rivers this season, which led to heavy persistent storms, record rainfall, snowfall, and flooding.

An atmospheric river is a long, narrow band of tropical moisture that gets carried along mid- and upper- parts of the atmosphere. When these systems move over land, they can produce intense rainfall rates and strong winds. Colder atmospheric river systems can also produce significant snow at higher elevations.

Just six months ago, California was entrenched in an extreme drought that dragged on for three years. Now the state is suffering record amounts of rain and snow. Climate change might contribute to these unusual weather pattern.

"Climate change... it has its fingerprint all over this," Andrew Schwartz, lead scientist with the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Laboratory, told FOX5 San Diego.

The larger pattern of one after another storms bringing extreme rain and snow to the region following a prolonged period of drought is something that is likely to keep happening as the global climate changes.

"Higher climate variability and these weather whiplash events from year to year, those are only expected to increase," Schwartz said.

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