California faces off against another freak of nature: Atmospheric River

Featured image obtained from NOAA

The previous freak of nature event California had was just last year in summer, when we saw a dry thunderstorm. They’re not that rare, but the massive scale of it was. As its name suggests, it is a thunderstorm without rain (the rain actually evaporates before it even makes it down to the surface), with high winds that fan the flames, which in turn fuels the storm even further due to the formation of more dry thunderstorm clouds. It was a very devastating event, with tens of thousands of lightning strikes igniting over 400 individual fires that coalesced into massive wildfires.

A dry thunderstorm; notice the minuscule of rain, illuminated by the lightning bolt. Image credit: Wikimedia

So last year we were faced with drought and wildfires, but now we’re getting a weather phenomenon that is just the opposite of fiery dry thunderstorms: An atmospheric river. The river is a filament of concentrated moisture up in the atmosphere, and it recently had a collision course with Californian mountains, forcing the river to precipitate. From what I’ve read, the Sierra Nevada could expect several feet of snow, while other areas like the Bay Area may receive several inches of rain (at most a month’s worth of rain in a few days). With so much precipitation, there are risks of floods, mudslides, and avalanches.

It is crazy to fathom that only 5 months ago we were more concerned about severe drought and wildfires, only to now be worried about floods and mudslides (At least the drought will be somewhat relieved). Bipolar weather events like these are no doubt starting to become more common as a result of climate change. Thankfully, we now have a much, much more competent administration that doesn’t deny science, facts, and logic, and won’t turn an event like this as proof climate change doesn’t exist because there’s snow. Bonus: If you’ve ever felt dumb, please take a look at this article. Feel better about yourself? I know I do.