Atmospheric Rivers Inundate California

Authors: Joseph Ardizzone

A series of North Pacific cyclones brought unusually heavy precipitation to California over a 2-3 week period beginning in late December 2022. Some locations received over 13 inches (330 mm) of rain and 10 feet (3 meters) of snow. The abundant moisture can be seen as plumes of water vapor (shown as total precipitable water) originating out of the tropics. These narrow channels of high-water vapor are known as atmospheric rivers. They act like a firehose when directed onto land by storms. The vapor is condensed into precipitation resulting in extreme flooding and snowfall. The upper left panel shows 24-hour accumulated precipitation in response to an atmospheric river event over California.

slide graphic from rainfall

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