California will get snow and possibly two months worth of rain from back-to-back-to-back atmospheric rivers

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The National Weather Service’s San Francisco office said that through May 22 the state is expected to get 150-200% of its normal monthly rainfall.

It’s all thanks to a series of “atmospheric rivers” that will set up over the Pacific Ocean, moving into California.

Atmospheric rivers suck up water vapor from the ocean, transport it along narrow regions in the atmosphere and then dump precipitation in massive amounts on land, supercharging storm systems.

Water vapor satellite imagery shows the atmospheric river flowing across the Pacific into California early Thursday morning.

The second of three “rivers” is setting up still offshore, but it’ll start bringing rain and snow to California on Friday through Saturday. Then a third system, albeit weaker, will move through the state next Wednesday to help push precipitation totals over record amounts.

While the lower elevations will see rainfall, the Sierra Nevada will see even more snowfall. Some areas could see up to 30 inches of snow through Friday morning.

The southern portion of the mountain range is already under a winter weather warning and officials say travel will be impossible at times.

Expected high winds won’t help travel conditions either and are likely to cause power outages and down trees.

These storms are unusual because they normally happen in winter. In fact, atmospheric rivers are responsible for pulling much of California and Arizona out of drought.

The first atmospheric river moved through on Wednesday and is already dissipating. Before it did, it set daily rainfall records across the state.

Venado, California, got 5 inches in one day, making it the wettest day in May in its history. The previous record for the northern California town was 3.28 inches on May 18, 2005.



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