Atmospheric River deluges California and the Southwest

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:25 PM GMT on December 22, 2010

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An “Atmospheric River” of extremely moist air continues to affect the Southwest U.S. today, and flooding rains of 1 – 2” with isolated amounts of 2 – 4” can be expected across Southern California, western and central Arizona, southeastern Nevada, and southwestern Utah. The heaviest rains will fall over the coastal mountains south of Los Angeles. The storm began on Friday night, and has brought some rather remarkable rains and snows to the Southwest. Crestline, California, in the mountains just east of Los Angeles, has received 20.05” of rain since Friday. The Sierra Mountains near Sequoia National Park received an astonishing 17 feet of snow at Pescoes since Friday night. Other heavy snow amounts from the storm include 6.4' at Heavenly near Lake Tahoe, 6.5' in Crested Butte, Colorado, and 9 – 13.5' in Mammoth in the Sierras. Some other rainfall amounts from NOAA's latest Storm Summary:

...ARIZONA...
Iron Spring 11.14"
Black Rock 9.23"
Kingman 3.86"
Grand Canyon West 3.15"

...CALIFORNIA...
Crestline 20.05"
Nature Point 18.60"
Tanback 16.94"
Mammoth Lakes 12.82"
Santa Barbara 12.39"
Los Angeles-USC 6.66"
San Diego 4.22"
San Francisco Airport 2.44"

...NEVADA...
Mount Charleston 12.66"
Las Vegas, 24 miles WNW 8.99"
Reno 2.59"

...UTAH...
Gutz Peak 15.90"
Little Grassy 15.10"
Zion National Park 6.76"


Figure 1. The total amount of rainfall one could get if all the moisture in the air were condensed and fell out as rain is called the Total Precipitable Water (TPW). Here, TPW values from microwave satellite measurements are plotted, and show a plume of very moist air connecting the subtropics near Hawaii with Southern California. TPW vales in excess of 20 mm (about 0.8 inches, blue and warmer colors) are often associated with heavy rainfall events capable of causing flooding. Image credit: University of Wisconsin CIMSS.

“Atmospheric Rivers” was a term coined in the 1990s to describe plumes of moisture that ride up out of the subtropics into the mid-latitudes along the axis of a cold front. Traditional water vapor satellite imagery does not show these plumes very well, and it was only when microwave satellite imagery from polar orbiting satellites became available in the late 1990s that the full importance of these Atmospheric Rivers came to be revealed. Atmospheric Rivers account for a significant portion of California's cold season rainfall and snowfall, and an entire session was devoted to them at last week's American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, the world's largest Earth Science meeting.

Jeff Masters

High water/flooding (meto234)
The Virgin and Santa Clara rivers are topping out at flood stage at St. George, Utah. Been raining for 3 days and more on the way.
High water/flooding
Desert Rainbow (multex)
desert rainbow
Desert Rainbow
None Shall Pass (DancinPants)
That right there between me and the guy on the far side is the road....and the only one that, as far as I'm aware leads out of Pamo Valley. So he might be stuck there. I drove across there just yesterday!
None Shall Pass

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Not to be a nit-picker (okay, I guess I am) but "Sierra" means "mountain" They are either the Sierra Nevada or the Nevada Mountains. (Kind of like misplaced apostrophes -- it gets on my nerves.)
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Quoting Inyo:
RE: global warming, i've posted about it before but on a non political level I would like to submit these comments:

-natural climate change is CERTAINLY happening, tree rings and sediment cores tell us that the climate is naturally very 'fickle' and quick to change, at least within certain limits.


-Just because the above is definitely true does not mean we don't influence the climate. We probably do, both by fossil fuel use and by the massive changes in albedo and humidity associated with deforestation , irrigation of dry areas, and habitat loss

-Our digging up and burning fossil fuels, and our habitat/watershed destruction and deforestation, have a lot of environmental and social costs aside from climate change which are causing significant decreases in the quality and quantity of life for humans around the planet, including the United States where most people who are reading this live.

-We can't go back to being hunter-gatherers because there are way too many people. Nor can we keep doing what we are doing because eventually we will 'run out'. Quality and quantity of human life are important to just about everyone, since we are humans. So, it's in our best interest to work for those goals.

-That all being said, it seems quite clear that we should work to reduce our use of fossil fuels and of products that are associated with deforestation/habitat loss, as much as possible... both on an individual level as well as on a societal level.

I know there is a lot of politics involved in HOW we should do this, but I'd rather see people argue about that, rather than whether or not there is a problem. There clearly is!




Most excellent post. I agree 100%.


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Quoting greggebhardt:
Next will come Locusts!

You reap what you sow

Why aren't there sports franchises named things like the locusts? The New York Plague, for instance. Toronto Argonauts are the coolest. Go Argos!
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Fun read about us entering a mini ice age:

Link

Thought this might stir the pot a little for the global warming folks! Enjoy...

I, too, happen to believe the sun plays more of a role in our weather than we lend credence to.


Seems oddly inconsistent. If the solar activity were causing the colder than average weather in Europe, you would expect similar deviations globally. Yet the last several years continue to be in the top warmest years on record. More than likely, he's been just lucky, and the UK Met Office has been putting too much faith in short term climate forecasts - forecasts which tend to have low skill above climatology anyway.
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Quoting Inyo:


Does that mean no New England Nor'easter (if correct)? Also where do you see the EURO online?


No it rides up the east coast as a Nor'easter as in the previous runs. Here it is online: Link
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136. Inyo
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:
Hey guys, the 12Z Euro is out. Can someone analyze it because I'm not exactly sure what everything means. Looks slower and more south.


Does that mean no New England Nor'easter (if correct)? Also where do you see the EURO online?
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Next will come Locusts!

You reap what you sow
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Quoting Inyo:


again, it is well understood by any climate scientist of any political persuasion that there are a LOT of different things affecting the climate, including solar cycles, eccentricities in orbit and axial tilt, global albedo, etc, etc/ Just because one of those factors is important doesn't mean the others aren't! I've never heard anyone deny that 'the sun strongly affects climate' and if any pro global warming person said that, they were misinformed, as many people are.

Of course there are numerous factors affecting the climate. And, yes, of course the fun strongly affects the climate; who would say otherwise? But in my opinion, it takes quite a personality and an astounding leap of faith to look at the steady rise in global temperatures these past decades--including the record-breaking heat of 2010--along with the fact that the sun is at a 100-year output minimum, and conclude, "Yep, an ice age is definitely upon us!"

The fact is, as I recently pointed out--there is absolutely no other way to account for rising oceanic heat content than through an imbalance in exchanged energy resulting directly from an increased concentration of GhGs. Yes, there are other factors, but none of those other ones--nor even all of them put together--can account for the current warming of the seas. AGW is the single solution that fits, period.
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This is what Frank Strait posted on his facebook page: "12Z/22 Euro run = 10" in the Center of the Universe."
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131. jeffB
Quoting IKE:


Just came out....Link


MAN that thing's hard to control! They need a usability person.

Looks like now the fun isn't starting until Monday. Figures -- we're trying to travel on Tuesday. Ugh.
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Quoting xcool:
Tupelo, Mississippi snow in forecast

Holy cow!
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Quoting NavarreMark:
In honor of the blog, I am going to adjust the duel quads on my big block to full rich.

Gotta admit. I like the smell.


460? Turn them up and you can ignite the uburned fuel coming out the tailpipe. (don't ask how I know)
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Quoting ncgnto25:


60 years is nothing in the full scope of things.

Sorry, but that is a meaningless statement. Kind of like "Oh, yeah?" The following youtube link I pulled up at random (more or less) is about the same thing.

a href="" target="_blank">Link
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Quoting IKE:


Looks like it crosses the northern GOM and then blows up east of NE Florida as it races up the east coast of the USA.

As far as rain/snow line...someone beyond my knowledge is needed.


As I compare it to previous runs on the Geopotential 500 hPa and Temperature at 850 hPa
view I think it dips "sharper" and a little more southerly. Idk.
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125. IKE
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


Yeah just found it. Dunno how to read it though XD


Looks like it crosses the northern GOM and then blows up east of NE Florida as it races up the east coast of the USA.

As far as rain/snow line...someone beyond my knowledge is needed.
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Quoting IKE:


Just came out....Link


Yeah just found it. Dunno how to read it though XD
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Hey guys, the 12Z Euro is out. Can someone analyze it because I'm not exactly sure what everything means. Looks slower and more south.
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Quoting Jeff9641:
Euro is blasting the SE US all the way to New England. WOW! FL Penisula should see some decent thunderstorms from this Saturday Night.


Awww c'mon Jeff, don't say that. I gotta drive a half-hour from my dads back to my place at 8 or so, and then fly to SC the next morning. I just hope it isn't too severe.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
119. IKE
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:
When does the 12Z Euro start becoming available?


Just came out....Link
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Quoting JFLORIDA:

Changes in carbon-14 concentration in the Earth's atmosphere, which serves as a long term proxy of solar activity. Note the present day is on the left-hand side of this figure.


So our carbon-14 level today is roughly the same as it was 800-900 years ago? I'm not trying to be a jerk...Maybe I'm not understanding your graph.
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115. Inyo
Quoting cat5hurricane:
That's a great point. There needs to be a lot more research on the solar cycles and it's potential impact on a warming cycle before making definite conclusions man is warming the globe.


again, it is well understood by any climate scientist of any political persuasion that there are a LOT of different things affecting the climate, including solar cycles, eccentricities in orbit and axial tilt, global albedo, etc, etc/ Just because one of those factors is important doesn't mean the others aren't! I've never heard anyone deny that 'the sun strongly affects climate' and if any pro global warming person said that, they were misinformed, as many people are.
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Quoting ncgnto25:


First of all, I highly resent your statement that anyone that doesn't believe your scenario 100% is part of the 'uneducated masses'. I have an IQ in excess of 140 and have read and continue to read up on BOTH SIDES. It is difficult to determine what is factual and what is 'spun'. You have obviously bought in to the fact that Global Warming is a fact and man is the cause of it and if we don't do something-we are all going to perish in a blaze of fire, or drought, or starvation (choose your poison). Let's assume that you are correct. What do you plan on doing about it? You can sit here and blog all day about it, insulting anyone that doesn't agree with you, or you can actively do something about it. Don't you get it-nobody in the government is going to do anything because too many people have too many agendas and too much money is involved. The reality is that society moves way too slowly to implement the changes you believe need to be implemented now. So what do you do? You sit here and insult people. Why don't you get out there and volunteer for something and actually do something about it? There are a lot of "green" companies developing new technologies to cut emissions-and a lot of them are doing it because it is the right thing to do to clean up our environment-not because of global warming. How about deforestation? That is such a huge thing for our ecosystem, our global weather patterns cannot help but be disrupted. Your focus should be in the direction of action-not sitting here trying to convince everybody that global warming is man caused. Abengoa is one such green company that is looking to the future. There are many.
Now, you asked me which side I am on. I believe we are in a transitional phase warming the earth, very similar to the one from 800-1100 before the advent of the 'Little Ice Age'. We have been warming since it 'ended' around 1800. The rate of increase in temperature would automatically accelerate with a smaller and smaller icepack because more land is absorbing more heat and not reflecting it. I do not think we caused the warming that began in 1800, and if we are enhancing it at this point, I believe it is minimally. It seems that the pattern would repeat itself and there is evidence that it has many times in the past.
My original point that escaped you was that, with the wealth of information(whether fact, fiction or spun) it seems to me that there should not be a party line division on this subject. And soooooo diametrically opposed!! Why is that?

Allow me to respond to some of your points:

1) I've never said "we are all going to perish in a blaze of fire" because of global warming. I realize that's a very common argument used by the denier side, but it's a specious argument at best. Just because someone points out the scientific facts about AGW and says something needs to be done about it doesn't mean he's being alarmist. If your doctor suggests you quit smoking, that's not alarmist; it's common sense.

2) I seldom insult anyone intentionally, though I will admit to ridiculing the arguments some use, namely the old, tired, illogical, and thoroughly-debunked ones that keep coming up again and again and again and again...

3) As I've gone into in the past, I do quite a bit where GM mitigation is concerned both personally and professionally. But solving the problem is going to require a multi-pronged approach: personal action, public education, policy advocacy, political engagement. Sometimes I focus on one; sometimes one of the others. With the nation's current political mood, I choose to work on prong #2 for the moment. The thing is, I can use all the CFLs I want, but so long as uneducated citizens still believe the fallacy that the planet isn't warming, it'll have little impact, so I choose to also volunteer my time educating in my own small if sometimes confrontational way.

4) So far as the mechanics of GW and whether it's happening or not, I'll just say what I've said before: the increasing heat content of the ocean is the largest single fact showing that the planet is warming up due to heat-trapping GhGs. The amount of energy stored in the form of excess ocean heat is so great that it can only be explained by a growing imbalance between the energy our planet gets from the sun and the energy it returns to space--and that imbalance is a direct result of the growing concentration of GhGs. And that's neither opinion nor ideology; it's just fact.
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When does the 12Z Euro start becoming available?
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Quoting JFLORIDA:


Not really - there are measurable proxies for solar flux and temperature also. There is around 60 yeas of direct measurements too.


Read up on this stuff before you comment - you may actually be surprised to lean the extent of the science and the amount the public is misled in solar cycle arguments.


60 years is nothing in the full scope of things.
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105. Inyo
what if we are in a normal warming cycle caused by the sun AND we are warming the climate with CO2 as well?

Most of what I've read about the sun says that it is actually in a relatively cool cycle and has been for the past decade or two.

I don't think anyone underestimates the sun's effect on climate since the sun is the CAUSE of climate.
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Quoting FSUCOOPman:
Fun read about us entering a mini ice age:

Link

Thought this might stir the pot a little for the global warming folks! Enjoy...

I, too, happen to believe the sun plays more of a role in our weather than we lend credence to.


That's the one other thing I wanted to say. We don't know enough about sun cycles. How do we know we are not in a normal warming cycle caused by the sun. We have no figures on output except for the past few years, and only guesses before that.
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103. xcool
Tupelo, Mississippi snow in forecast
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Quoting Jeff9641:
Euro is blasting the SE US all the way to New England. WOW! FL Penisula should see some decent thunderstorms from this Saturday Night.


NO! Don't want thunderstorms down in Florida because that usually robs us of some of our snow moisture here in NC.
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Fun read about us entering a mini ice age:

Link

Thought this might stir the pot a little for the global warming folks! Enjoy...

I, too, happen to believe the sun plays more of a role in our weather than we lend credence to.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
99. Inyo
RE: global warming, i've posted about it before but on a non political level I would like to submit these comments:

-natural climate change is CERTAINLY happening, tree rings and sediment cores tell us that the climate is naturally very 'fickle' and quick to change, at least within certain limits.


-Just because the above is definitely true does not mean we don't influence the climate. We probably do, both by fossil fuel use and by the massive changes in albedo and humidity associated with deforestation , irrigation of dry areas, and habitat loss

-Our digging up and burning fossil fuels, and our habitat/watershed destruction and deforestation, have a lot of environmental and social costs aside from climate change which are causing significant decreases in the quality and quantity of life for humans around the planet, including the United States where most people who are reading this live.

-We can't go back to being hunter-gatherers because there are way too many people. Nor can we keep doing what we are doing because eventually we will 'run out'. Quality and quantity of human life are important to just about everyone, since we are humans. So, it's in our best interest to work for those goals.

-That all being said, it seems quite clear that we should work to reduce our use of fossil fuels and of products that are associated with deforestation/habitat loss, as much as possible... both on an individual level as well as on a societal level.

I know there is a lot of politics involved in HOW we should do this, but I'd rather see people argue about that, rather than whether or not there is a problem. There clearly is!

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All of this moisture feed in the west and it is going to rain out and deflect north of us in Albuquerque again. We may get a piece of it. This is why we are high desert.
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Quoting Patrap:
.."I havent much Time"..,

...Somethings gonna Happen,..Something Wunderful


Congress is actually going to act with the best interests of 'the people' for once instead of their own interests?

(What a pipe dream!)
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NEXRAD Radar
Santa Ana Mountain, Base Reflectivity 0.50 Degree Elevation Range 124 NMI


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.."I havent much Time"..,

...Somethings gonna Happen,..Something Wunderful
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Snicker...chuckle,,ACK!!

LOL
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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