California Atmospheric Rivers To Bring Heavy Rainfall And Snow

by | Jan 31, 2024 | Climate Crisis, Environmental News

Home » Environmental News » California Atmospheric Rivers To Bring Heavy Rainfall And Snow

The USA is on high alert as it prepares for the first of two California Atmospheric Rivers events within the next fortnight, promising heavy rainfalls or snow from Wednesday to Thursday. These meteorological phenomena, known for causing dangerous flash flooding, landslides, and white-out conditions, are vast airborne currents carrying dense moisture from the Pacific. They funnel over land, resulting in significant precipitation.

California Atmospheric Rivers are massive streams of moisture in the sky, extending hundreds of miles and capable of delivering substantial rain and snow. While some systems are weaker and contribute beneficially to water supplies, others can be formidable, leading to severe weather challenges.

Despite the potential hazards, the incoming precipitation is a welcome respite for California, which has faced below-average precipitation since October. With only 82% of its historic average rainfall recorded, the state’s water resources have been under strain. Major reservoirs are faring better at 116% above average levels, but the snowpack, crucial for offsetting arid conditions during drier months, is lagging at just 32% of its average.

California Atmospheric Rivers To Bring Heavy Rainfall And Snow

Atmospheric rivers are not rare, with about 11 typically present on Earth at any given time. Although many are benign, providing essential moisture, their sheer size—carrying up to 15 times the volume of the Mississippi River—means they can become dangerous under the right conditions. The expected atmospheric river could bring up to 6 inches of rain, risking flash floods and infrastructure damage. At the same time, high-elevation areas might experience up to 3 feet of snow, creating hazardous travel conditions.

California’s history with atmospheric rivers includes last winter’s dozen events that led to significant losses and 21 fatalities. The anticipated changes due to climate change suggest that these phenomena will become more common and potentially more destructive, mainly when arriving in series.

While the immediate concern is the atmospheric rivers, the longer-term perspective reveals ongoing dry conditions. Despite some areas being “abnormally” dry, the state has endured severe drought phases, highlighting the region’s persistent challenge of water management and climate resilience.

As California gears up to face the impact of these atmospheric rivers, the focus will be on managing the immediate risks while considering the broader implications for the state’s water resources and environmental health in an era of climate change.

Also Read: Global Warming Identified As Primary Culprit For Amazon Drought: Study


  • Sarah Tancredi

    Sarah Tancredi is an experienced journalist and news reporter specializing in environmental and climate crisis issues. With a deep passion for the planet and a commitment to raising awareness about pressing environmental challenges, Sarah has dedicated her career to informing the public and promoting sustainable solutions. She strives to inspire individuals, communities, and policymakers to take action to safeguard our planet for future generations.

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