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As California Warms, Atmospheric Rivers Are the Hot Topic



A satellite image of the atmospheric river storm landing on the California coast on Jan. 27, 2021. (NASA GOES-West)
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As the world warms, atmospheric rivers will intensify and the chance of back-to-back events could become more common, researchers say.

For increasingly dry California, these ribbons of water vapor that form in the tropics and stretch to 3,100 miles long, can be especially beneficial.

However, they also can cause catastrophic flooding and landslides.

“California can swing from 20 inches to 60 inches of rainfall per year,” says Atmospheric River Reconnaissance lead Marty Ralph, a research meteorologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “We’re very different from the rest of the country — that’s why we need a special (monitoring) program.”

Learn More at These Links

Read more from reporter Robin Meadows at Maven’s Notebook.

You can also check out this story by Eric Simons at Bay Nature.

NOAA graphic explaining atmospheric rivers

The science behind atmospheric rivers (NOAA)

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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