Flooding in California: Caused by Atmospheric River

California has been hit with serious weather in the winter months of 2022-2023. Parts of Northern California spent the weekend under a flood watch warning; these severe storms are predicted to travel south, which has put the San Francisco area on flood watch through Wednesday. The residents of northern cities and towns have been forced to leave their homes behind due to unsafe conditions. Farms in California’s Valley have also flooded, causing damage to crops and equipment.

Officials have stated that many places throughout California are looking at months to repair damages caused by the flooding. It is not only the intense amounts of rain and high winds that need to be watched but there are also mass amounts of snow in Northern California that will be melting, causing even more water to come down to the Valley. The one up-side to these intense rainfalls is that many places have been able to lift their drought condition enforcements.

While this is one of the wettest seasons for California on record, there is still concern about water supply and water usage throughout the state. It is also expected that this extra stormy season will be met with an extra dry season after. Scientists say this flooding is due to what is called an “atmospheric river.” This is no ordinary river but a long and wide line of moisture in the atmosphere that is moved by the wind that stretches from the tropics or subtropics into higher latitudes.

In California’s case, the moisture starts near Hawaii and goes to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Since an atmospheric river stays still in the sky and the moisture moves, it rains heavily on whatever lies beneath the river. This has been the cause of the record-breaking snow and rainfalls in California the past few months. This next atmosphere river is expected to bring flooding to California over the next three days. There are over twenty counties in a state of emergency. The Coast Guard and National Guard are on standby, awaiting the disasters ahead.


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