All About Atmospheric Rivers –

All About Atmospheric Rivers –
All About Atmospheric Rivers –

storm over Alcatraz
A break within the clouds as an atmospheric river storm blows over Alcatraz. (Photograph by TJ Gehling)

Atmospheric rivers, generally abbreviated as ARs, aren’t really rainstorms themselves. Somewhat, they’re a product of the earth’s heat-balancing act, the pure technique of transferring warmth and moisture from the tropics to increased latitudes. It’s solely when an atmospheric river combines with a Pacific storm that ARs turn out to be energized into super-storms.

atmospheric river
A visualization of an atmospheric river stretching throughout the Pacific from Hawaii to California in 2014. (Picture courtesy Cameron Beccario, earth.nullschool.web)

A lot of California enjoys a light Mediterranean local weather the place the climate usually swings like a pendulum from heat, dry summers to chill, moist winters. If it doesn’t swing towards rain and snow between October and March, it results in drought; if it does, we’d see record-breaking precipitation. Whereas the pendulum has at all times swung right here, there’s proof that its swings at the moment are getting extra dramatic.

<script type=”text/javascript”> atOptions = { ‘key’ : ‘015c8be4e71a4865c4e9bcc7727c80de’, ‘format’ : ‘iframe’, ‘height’ : 60, ‘width’ : 468, ‘params’ : {} }; document.write(‘<scr’ + ‘ipt type=”text/javascript” src=”//”></scr’ + ‘ipt>’); </script><\/p>

satellite image of atmospheric river
A satellite tv for pc picture of an atmospheric river touchdown in Northern California on October 24, 2021. (Picture courtesy NOAA)

Atmospheric rivers are nothing in need of a miracle for California. However local weather change is altering their character. The native impacts of world warming are making us constantly grapple with both drought, deluge or each on the identical time. Can we depend on these miracle-working storms anymore? Are the miracles of atmospheric rivers turning right into a menace?

(Illustration created by NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory)

The reason for El Niño has been revealed solely slowly, piece by piece over a century, as devoted researchers in far-flung places searched for explanations for the droughts and deluges they witnessed.

oil painting of Sierra Nevada
Portray by Owen Smith.

Historic and buried riverbeds can transfer and take up extra stormwater, storing it for future droughts. Known as paleo valleys, these buried historic riverbeds are nonetheless the paths water desires to journey underground, like slow-motion rivers. Their excessive permeability means they’ll take up about 60 instances extra water than the encircling clay. Aquifers, that are higher recognized, additionally maintain water in coarse soils. However the paleo valleys born of the latest glaciations are actually particular.

MJO phases
Phases of the Madden-Julian Oscillation, primarily based on knowledge from 1979-2016. (Picture by NOAA Local; knowledge by NCEP)

Lots of people ask what it takes to make it rain in California, and the reply depends on a bewildering number of inputs, a few of them very complicated and really far-off. Probably the most intriguing, and least understood, is a climate phenomenon known as the Madden-Julian Oscillation, or MJO, a big tropical system of clouds, rainfall and wind patterns—think about a touring storminess—that takes 30 to 60 days on common to work its manner throughout the globe.

Lake Oroville in June 2021
A NASA satellite tv for pc view of Lake Oroville in June 2021. The lake reached its lowest degree in additional than 40 years in August. (Photograph by NASA Earth Observatory, pictures by Lauren Dauphin, utilizing Landsat knowledge from the U.S. Geological Survey)

Statistically, October rain doesn’t depend a lot towards Northern California’s annual rainfall. In a area that averages 20-40 inches of rain a yr, even a really moist October would possibly solely be 10 % of the full quantity. However October’s rainfall performs an outsized position in figuring out the character of a yr due to its affect on each fireplace and agriculture. 

The mallard is one sort of chicken that fares nicely in stormy climate. Others aren’t so fortunate. (Photograph by Alexis Babayan through iNaturalist, CC BY 4.0)

Involved about our feathered buddies within the midst of latest rainstorms? Visitor naturalist Josiah Clark reveals how seabirds, songbirds, raptors, waterbirds and others deal with the stormy climate.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here