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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Got down to a frigid (LOL) 71 at 3:00 am, and peaked at a nice 77 at 11:00 am.
Must be Christmas or something....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
WITH DEEP-LAYER SHEAR BECOMING INCREASINGLY FAVORABLE /40-50 KNOT FLOW AT 850 MB...AND 50-60 KNOT FLOW ALOFT/ FOR STRONG TO SEVERE CONVECTION FROM SATURDAY NIGHT THROUGH SUNDAY MORNING...CONDITIONS APPEAR MORE FAVORABLE FOR A FREEZE ON MONDAY NIGHT/TUESDAY MORNING...WITH A COLD/DRY AIR MASS EXPECTED TO LINGER ACROSS THE AREA THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF NEXT WEEK.

Miami NWS Discussion

Man, all the palm trees are going to die, jk but the crops again this year will fail.
Member Since: June 21, 2007 Posts: 10 Comments: 1657
Quoting BahaHurican:
I feel really out of it with no weather of any excitement to discuss. We had fantastic wx all day, great sun, just enough breeze to keep a walker from breaking a sweat... great stuff. Temps are just beginning to drop off now. And while all the little kiddie-twigs may be wishing for some cold weather to try out all the new winter gear they're likely to get for Christmas, I am personally rooting for much more of the same.... lol

Sure am glad I'm not in the "it never rains in southern parts" state....

Enjoying the relatively cooler temps here too.
But we are getting showers, with a lot more to come this week with plenty ITCZ activity overhead and east of here.
Going to be a rainy Christmas....
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Local West Palm Beach Met said a chance for some stormy weather Christmas night and Sunday morning for south Florida.


How I would really love for it to move to Sunday night/Monday morning.
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WITH DEEP-LAYER SHEAR BECOMING INCREASINGLY FAVORABLE /40-50 KNOT FLOW AT 850 MB...AND 50-60 KNOT FLOW ALOFT/ FOR STRONG TO SEVERE CONVECTION FROM SATURDAY NIGHT THROUGH SUNDAY MORNING...CONDITIONS APPEAR MORE FAVORABLE FOR A FREEZE ON MONDAY NIGHT/TUESDAY MORNING...WITH A COLD/DRY AIR MASS EXPECTED TO LINGER ACROSS THE AREA THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF NEXT WEEK.

Miami NWS Discussion
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Quoting DDR:
Total precipitation since January 1st 2010 at my location as of today has crossed 4000mm, now stands at 4007.23mm or 157.76 inches

Hi DDR...
My total to date is 1987 mm, so just under half of what you got.

You really had plenty of rainfall this year !! WOW.
I wish I could get some figures from higher in the mountains.
Trying to get a contact at Asa Wright to put in a guage.

I will be putting in a guage at Brasso Seco in January.
I think that would be fun !
Although Brasso did not get the kind of rains that they usually get, because most seemed to have fallen on the south side of the range this year.

Have a Good Christmas, and a Happy New Year!
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Local West Palm Beach Met said a chance for some stormy weather Christmas night and Sunday morning for south Florida.
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I feel really out of it with no weather of any excitement to discuss. We had fantastic wx all day, great sun, just enough breeze to keep a walker from breaking a sweat... great stuff. Temps are just beginning to drop off now. And while all the little kiddie-twigs may be wishing for some cold weather to try out all the new winter gear they're likely to get for Christmas, I am personally rooting for much more of the same.... lol

Sure am glad I'm not in the "it never rains in southern parts" state....
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333. Inyo
I'd be more inclined to believe in Auras and Spoon Bending than the 'science' in State of Fear, honestly.
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332. Inyo
Quoting JFLORIDA:

Been watching it for a few days - its still far out but I notice its been getting better resolved it seems to me.


Well.... I hope it is either colder than anticipated or a bust. I guess predicting temperatures that far out is a lost cause so perhaps it won't ruin the snow after all. Or, it may do what the last rain-on-snow did - melt 4 inches of snow during the rainy part, then deposit 4 new inches of snow right back on the ground during the cold part.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Evening all.

Hey... nobody said you had to be SANE to be a good storyteller....


Kreskin and Uri Geller are my heroes. :)
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Quoting Grothar:


Real panic is waking up at 3 in the morning and remembering that you didn't put out the garbage.........after an unnamed someone had told you 3 times. That is panic!
Not to mention the blizzard that started outside your house around 1 a.m. . .. while u were sleeping...
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Evening all.

Quoting bappit:
It seems that Crichton was a bit of a nut. Wikipedia:

At Harvard he developed the belief that all diseases, including heart attacks, are direct effects of a patient's state of mind. He later wrote: "We cause our diseases. We are directly responsible for any illness that happens to us."[11] Eventually he came to believe in auras, spoon bending, and clairvoyance.[11]

The reference [11] is to Crichton's book Travels.
Hey... nobody said you had to be SANE to be a good storyteller....
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Quoting JFLORIDA:

2,300 year Hallstatt solar variation cycles.

and another proxy:


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.


Thanks... learn something new every day! I was wondering how one could include solar in the regressions following the Berliner response... okay...
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How much snow can NYC see by Sunday?

I am guess 6 inches plus.

Any other predictions/cristism?
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325. DDR
Total precipitation since January 1st 2010 at my location as of today has crossed 4000mm, now stands at 4007.23mm or 157.76 inches
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Quoting DocNDswamp:
Hiya Dr Jeff and blog crew,

My sympathies to all of you in CA and the Southwest suffering from the daily deluge / flooding from the Pineapple Express... That was our December last year, when every station in South Louisiana set the record for wettest Dec with amts ranging 22-26"! More or less in line of expectations from last year's El Nino regional impact... Par for the course, this December most of us have had around a mere half inch or less... and on course for one of the top 10 driest Decembers barring a drastic pattern change / slow moving wet system next 9 days...

Oh, just to add to the solar influence on climate discussion for those who still retain an open mind for baffling new possibilities, I found this an interesting read published recently in Nature - "Declining solar activity linked to recent warming"... Of course at the end of article, it includes an almost obligatory immediate discounting / repudiation from certain "denialists" of the study's significance... ;)

At the least, it's another illustration of the phrase "the more we know, the more we realize how little we really know"...

Cheers, all...
So very true, at that. Every significant study, without absurd extrapolation and assumption, shows this in one way or another.
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KOG - Let me remind you....
My Christmas wish is NO SNOW! LOL
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
i have notice stronger flow of a east to west flow across the northern hemisphere is it possible for a new flow to form across a region bounded bewteen 40n 60n over time that flow and extend of it seems to get stronger and wider each time
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Def the cold air will be coming..



Brrrr!
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320. DDR
1/2 inch of rain here in Trinidad today,eastern areas received plenty more,the long range gfs shows 12 inches by January 7th,interesting...

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KOTG's images not coming in for me...dont like missing them........is it my PC ? Others getting them.
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Quoting Patrap:
The GOM Xmas Screamer evolution is a Dicey one


Probably will be.. would be nice to get some snow for us in the south for christmas though.. That would be a lovely sight.. :)
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Looks like the west up near seattle is going to get hammer as well.. That L is def bringing in some moisture.. Wow if that pans out.. Its going to get interesting for awhile.. If this setup continues, The west like cali and up towards Seattle is going to have a lot of rain/snow for quite some bit.. Maybe the Southeast see more strong L's form or just more L's come through.. We definitely need the rain for the deep south.. Im sure some will agree..

Well anyways.. Hope every1 has good christmas and new years.. I will probably be back later if i stay up for the models near midnight..

JG
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:
Here's some information on the atmospheric river: Link

GFS model is consistently predicting a major winter storm for the Great Lakes region around New Year's. The precipitation could be snow or freezing rain and a very cold Arctic air blast looks to follow the storm after a few days.

18z:


12z:


06z:
i have notice stronger flow of a east to west flow across the northern hemisphere is it possible for a new flow to form across a region bounded bewteen 40n 60n over time that flow and extend of it seems to get stronger and wider each time
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52230
Quoting NRAamy:
what happened to the viking ship avatar?


Didn't you hear? It sunk.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23703
854
fxus64 klix 222121
afdlix


Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service New Orleans la
321 PM CST Wednesday Dec 22 2010


Synopsis...
cold front working its way southeastward through the area...and
should clear all but lower Plaquemines Parish in next couple of
hours. Wind shift and drier air should allow marine based fog to
depart area. Clouds should also dissipate from the north.
Temperatures reached the middle to upper 70s in most areas before the
frontal passage.
&&


Short term...
southward extension of Canadian high pressure will dry things out
for the next 48 to 60 hours. Model soundings show a drop of about
10c over the next 24 hours...which will put high temperatures for
Thursday in the upper 50s to around 60. This fits with guidance
and going forecast. Will see 2 to 3 degrees of moderation on
Friday.


Extension of high moves east Friday night into Saturday...allowing
for a return flow of moisture. Models showing 3 separate streams
of energy moving out of The Rockies on Saturday. Beginning to see
more agreement between the models with the forecast scenario. All
3 models indicate that a surface low will develop over the
northern Gulf...passing just south of our area during the daytime
hours Saturday. Have bumped probability of precipitation up to likely across the entire
area for Saturday. Best instability will be south of the area so
thunder is not expected to be an issue. Rain amounts generally
expected to remain under one half inch. 35
&&


Long term...
low pressure shifts well to the east Saturday night before
cranking up to what may be a significant storm for the East Coast.
The only effect this system will have on our area past Saturday is
to provide strong northerly flow from Canada. This will bring cold
and dry weather to the area. Looking at subfreezing overnight lows
for Sunday night through Tuesday night...with the coldest being
Monday night...where a hard freeze is likely north of the tidal
lakes...and a light freeze south of the lakes. Temperatures will
begin to moderate Wednesday. Until then...high temperatures will
struggle to get much past 50 0r 55. 35
&&
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Quoting Patrap:
Not dis time Gro..


L.A. WunderMap®


We haven't had a drop since I don't know when. We are really dry here. Hope some of that moisture could head our way. How you been, Pat?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23703
what happened to the viking ship avatar?
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 316 Comments: 31944
The GOM Xmas Screamer evolution is a Dicey one
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530


getting low on the track.. hmm
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308. Inyo
That New Years storm looks like a yucky rain-on-snow event for northern New England. I sure hope it doesn't happen, the last thing we need is a cold blast after all the snow is meted away!
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Quoting FLPandhandleJG:


Interesting..
Indeed.
Member Since: June 21, 2007 Posts: 10 Comments: 1657
Quoting NRAamy:
yer killin' me, Groth....


Calm down, now Amy. Gro is just getting started. I will be cooking all day tomorrow and Friday. I always do the cooking on the holidays. I'm just a nice guy. (HA)
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23703


Interesting..
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yer killin' me, Groth....
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 316 Comments: 31944
Quoting Grothar:


Wow, a mistake like that could really scare some people. Wonder how it happened?
it popped up 10 mins or less after 6.3 off japan it was centre between HAW./west coast of mex/USA but did a refresh after i say couple of mins and it was gone whew good
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52230
Not dis time Gro..


L.A. WunderMap®
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
301. Grothar
11:09 PM GMT on December 22, 2010
Quoting Patrap:


Hey, pat. Think that could be a false echo. It NEVER rains in Southern California. (Right, Amy).
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23703
300. Grothar
11:07 PM GMT on December 22, 2010
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
gro there was a false icon on USGS globe of a 6.5 just w of us mainland but it has been removed


Wow, a mistake like that could really scare some people. Wonder how it happened?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23703
299. Patrap
11:05 PM GMT on December 22, 2010
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
298. Neapolitan
11:01 PM GMT on December 22, 2010
Quoting presslord:
somewhere on the site is a review Jeff Masters did of the Crichton book

Don't know if anyone answered you, but it's here: http://www.wunderground.com/education/stateoffear.asp

This line summarizes Dr. Masters' insightful and in-depth review:

"Crichton presents an error-filled and distorted version of the Global Warming science, favoring views of the handful of contrarians that attack the consensus science of the IPCC...The excessive interruptions of an otherwise good story by Crichton's bad science make State of Fear a bad buy."

Very well put, Dr. Masters.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13260
297. AstroHurricane001
11:00 PM GMT on December 22, 2010
Here's some information on the atmospheric river: Link

GFS model is consistently predicting a major winter storm for the Great Lakes region around New Year's. The precipitation could be snow or freezing rain and a very cold Arctic air blast looks to follow the storm after a few days.

18z:


12z:


06z:
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2834
296. DontAnnoyMe
10:56 PM GMT on December 22, 2010
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
gro there was a false icon on USGS globe of a 6.5 just w of us mainland but it has been removed


I believe Gro was referring to the misspelled word.
Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3690
295. AstroHurricane001
10:45 PM GMT on December 22, 2010
Quoting TampaFLUSA:
The storm was well predicted, except the storm surge aspect. People went to sleep and woke up to water in their bed.


Storm surge situation is becoming a problem in Atlantic Canada. Some areas have recieved 100 km/h winds and the heavy storm surge is coming on top of previous flooding.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2834
294. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:39 PM GMT on December 22, 2010
Quoting Grothar:


?
gro there was a false icon on USGS globe of a 6.5 just w of us mainland but it has been removed
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52230
293. Grothar
10:38 PM GMT on December 22, 2010
Quoting TampaFLUSA:
Tsnuami?


?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23703
292. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:36 PM GMT on December 22, 2010
appears to have been a false echo generated from USGS no watches or warnings for poss wave
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52230

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About JeffMasters

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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