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What is an atmospheric river?

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Q: What is an atmospheric river?

A: Join me in a song. *


Do not know why it rains so
All this water and the sky are so gray.
Pack an umbrella; wear something Gore-Tex
You have not seen the worst yet
I want to know, you will not tell me
This rain will remain

Atmospheric river, drops on us the water
Atmospheric River Pouring More Water
Washing Up, Washing Up

Is this song stuck in the minds of every Californian for a month? Such a kind. But you know the drill. Atmospheric rivers, the so-called Pineapple Express, can be found on almost every coastline in the world ̵

1; causing half of the extreme wind events and dropping more than half of the water that these shores see when it rains. They can be 300 miles wide and 1,000 miles long, and although only 2.8 percent of the rainy hours in California between 2004 and 2010 were atmospheric river hours, they sank 60 percent of the state's rainfall.

More hyperbolic values? Sure, we got it. More snow in one day than Boston. In Palm Springs in eight hours more rain than in the previous eight months. San Jose breaks a century-old precipitation record. Sonoma County had 20 inches of rain in two days (and yes, there were floods). Half of California's water supply is now frozen in the sierras like snow (that's good, it's literally a cold storage).

I do not know why you're raining so hard
You've dropped a sea, a tide, a deluge
A lot of water we can use, of course
Me would like to know that you will not tell me
The rain will remain

Atmospheric river, the water will drop us
Atmospheric river, pour more water
Wash, Wash Us

What causes them? The river part is not just a metaphor. Warm, humid air in the troposphere – from the ground up to a height of 6 to 12 miles – drifts across the tropics to the east. The current eventually hits mountains (in this case, the sierras), which deflect them upwards, where the air cools – and the moisture completely falls off. The key number is called Integrated Vapor Transport: The amount of water that is pressed. According to a recently developed scale, every storm that moves more than 250 kilograms of water per meter per second and lasts more than a day is an atmospheric flow.

Let me in, spray me, spray me, splash me
Until I can not, until I can not do any more, until I can not anymore
Drain more water, atmospheric river
Rain Drain more water, atmospheric flow
Wash, wash down

I do not know why you're snowing and raining
I wish my galoshes would fit in my brain.
Fifty-centimeters of Rain are a Slog

While it's true that atmospheric rivers bring floods, mudslides, sinkholes, and a general emotional horror of the Golden State, they are also the monsoons that are usually the dry seasons ending in California and the dry seasons of the state are breaking down frequent droughts But even the upside down could turn into a frown. Climate change means that atmospheric rivers at higher elevations become warmer and drop snow instead of rain. Without this blanket of snow, the people and agriculture of the state will not have enough water. The rivers will flow, but the droughts will not end.

Atmospheric river, do not just drop water
Atmospheric river, we need more snow – a lot
Wash us down

* With apologies to Al Green, Mabon Lewis Hodges, Talking Heads and generally music.

Adam Rogers is a native Californian, so it all seems pretty normal. He writes about science for WIRED.

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