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.”