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California Is Living Between Ever-Widening Climate Extremes

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In the early 2010s, California endured a very severe drought that killed millions of trees and fueled horrific wildfires. That was followed by a total reversal in 2017, the state’s second-wettest year on record, which caused landslides, evacuations and $1 billion in damages to roads and highways.

Sound familiar? Six years later, Californians have lived through yet another cycle of lengthy drought followed by record-breaking destructive rains. Dozens of atmospheric rivers over the winter removed all of the state from drought conditions.

The transformation from drought to deluge and back again can feel so complete that it’s easy to forget what conditions were like just a few years before, or how long we’ve been lurching between the two. That’s been true for generations, as John Steinbeck observed in “East of Eden”: “During the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.”

In an article for The New York Times Magazine’s California issue, Brooke Jarvis examined how these…

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