Photo Gallery | Flash Flood at Yolo Bypass Levee Connects Dots Between Extreme Weather and Climate Change
By Lynne Nittler
A “Flash Flood Mob” converged on top of the levee at the Yolo causeway with umbrellas, a banner of lapping waves and orange dots symbolizing heavy rain storms and flooding. Waving signs such as “Slow climate change!” and “Less CO2 = less flooding risk,” connect climate change to the very real local threat of flooding if our 100-year-old earth levees overflow or fail in increasingly strong storms.
The Flash Flood Mob, met on the top of the levee on the south side of I-80 at the entrance to Yolo Basin Wildlife Area at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
The creative demonstration is part of a global “Climate Impacts Day,” an effort led by international climate campaign 350.org that will bring together over 1,000 events in 150 countries in an attempt to “connect the dots” between local changes, like extreme weather events, and the broader climate crisis. The events dramatized that climate change is no longer a problem for the future, but an immediate crisis that is already affecting millions of people around the world.
“We hope lots of concerned people turn out,” said Lynne Nittler, organizer of the Flash Flood and member of the Cool Davis Initiative, a group dedicated to lowering the greenhouse gas emissions of Davis. “We’ve been fortunate so far to escape any disastrous local effects of climate change, but the one degree warmer global temperature holds 4% more moisture. That leads to more heavy deluges that increase our risk of flooding. The more we can do to slow climate change by reducing our carbon footprint and to prepare for the likely impacts of extreme weather, the better.”
In his 2011 book Hot: Living through the Next Fifty Years on Earth, northern California journalist Mark Hertsgaard devoted a section to the Sacramento region. He wrote, “Many places in California are also very susceptible to flooding, starting with the state capital itself, Sacramento.
Stein Buer, the executive director of the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, said Sacramento was even less protected than New Orleans had been before Katrina.”
The runoff water from the 27,000–square-mile watershed of the Sierra Neveda must squeeze by Sacramento on its way to the sea, and only packed earth levees built over 100 years ago protect the city against flooding. The Yolo Bypass spillway, the site of the Davis climate action, allows an excess flow of up to 500,000 cubic feet per second from the flood-prone Sacramento River to be diverted when necessary, significantly lowering the risk of downstream damage.
Over the last year, heat waves, flooding, drought and other extreme weather events have helped raise awareness of climate change around the world. From torrential rains in Central America, to terrible drought in the United States and Russia, to devastating flooding in much of Asia, millions of people are already feeling the effects of the climate crisis.
Author Bill McKibben, the co-founder of 350.org who spoke at UC Davis recently, wrote The End of Nature, the first book about global warming for a general audience in 1989. Even then, he contends, we knew enough to stop adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, but instead, we increased emissions.
“We just celebrated Earth Day. May 5 is more like Broken Earth Day, a worldwide witness to the destruction global warming is already causing,” said McKibben. “People everywhere are saying the same thing: our tragedy is not some isolated trauma, it's part of a pattern. It's time for the fossil fuel industry to take responsibility for the damage its carbon is causing, by cleaning up its act before this spreads any more widely."