Science

Satellites watch as atmospheric river continues to flood California

More rain is expected in an already drenched California as forecasters watch two new “atmospheric rivers” form over the Pacific Ocean to deliver massive amounts of tropical moisture to the normally dry and sunny state.

After more than 5 inches (12.7 cm) of rain fell in some coastal areas of California on Wednesday and Thursday (January 4 and 5), causing flash floods and widespread power outages, Californians got only a short respite.

A new atmospheric river is expected to arrive on Friday evening, bringing more flooding to the coast and heavy snowfall to the mountainous regions.

“The cumulative effect of heavy rain following recent heavy rains will result in additional significant flooding impacts this weekend, including rapid flooding and mudslides over northern and central California,” the National Weather Service said in a statement. (will open in a new tab) Thursday, Jan. 5. “Sudden floods and mudflows over the burnt areas are possible. [left by wildfires last summer].”

Related: Satellites watch as Europe suffers worst winter heat on record

And that’s not all that the current inclement weather has in store for California. The NWS said another atmospheric river is expected to arrive on Monday (January 9), bringing more rain and strong winds.

This turbulent January comes after an above-average rainfall in December, with more than 11.6 inches (29 cm) of rain falling in San Francisco, according to the Washington Post. (will open in a new tab)which is more than double the average amount for that part of the year.

Much of the moisture that causes flooding is channeled from Hawaii through what are known as atmospheric rivers, channels that form in the Earth’s atmosphere that funnel water vapor from humid tropical regions to drier regions farther from the equator.

The type of atmospheric river that ravages California is sometimes called the Pineapple Express after the fruit commonly grown in Hawaii.

A powerful storm that formed over the Pacific Ocean was spotted by a meteorological satellite on the US West Coast in January 2023. (Image credit: CIRA)

According to NASA (will open in a new tab)atmospheric rivers off the coast of California form regularly during the winter months and typically bring up to 50% of the region’s annual rain and snow.

The current string of atmospheric rivers, however, is especially treacherous due to their combination with a pronounced area of ​​low pressure, which has led to the formation of an extremely powerful storm, which meteorologists call a bomb cyclone, like the one that hit the area on Wednesday.

Follow Tereza Pultarova on Twitter @TerezaPultarova. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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