Yes, there are rivers up in the sky, and they’re responsible for up to 65% of the western USA’s extreme rain and snow events — such as the storm that blasted Northern California on Monday — a new study finds.
Made visible by clouds, these ribbons of water vapor known as atmospheric rivers extend thousands of miles from the tropics to the western USA. They provide the fuel for the massive rainstorms and subsequent floods along the U.S. West Coast.
The study released Monday, which appeared in the peer-reviewed British journalNature Geoscience, said it’s not only the USA that sees these weather troublemakers: Globally, up to 75% of extreme precipitation events come from atmospheric rivers, said study lead author Duane Waliser, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
In western Canada, northern Europe, New Zealand and southern South America, atmospheric rivers occur on 30 to 35 days per year, Waliser said.
Though beneficial for water supplies in the western USA, these events can wreak havoc on travel, bring deadly mudslides and cause catastrophic damage to life and property, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. (Click to Article)