Atmospheric River: As Much as 15 Mississippi Rivers

December 3, 2012


“Atmospheric River” hitting west coast

A huge swath of “atmospheric river” is hitting the west coast, with possible damage dwarfing that which recently happened in Hurricane Sandy.
From Scientific American:

“Northern California is experiencing the first days of what weather forecasters are warning will be a long series of torrential rainstorms that could cause serious flooding across the northern one-third of the state. The relentless storms are being driven by a feature in the atmosphere you have probably never heard of: an atmospheric river.
An atmospheric river is a narrow conveyor belt of vapor about a mile high that extends thousands of miles from out at sea and can carry as much water as 15 Mississippi Rivers. It strikes as a series of storms that arrive for days or weeks on end. Each storm can dump inches of rain or feet of snow.
The real scare, however, is that truly massive atmospheric rivers that cause catastrophic flooding seem to hit the state about once every 200 years, according to evidence recently pieced together (and described in the article noted above). The last megaflood was in 1861; rains arrived for 43 days, obliterating Sacramento and bankrupting the state. The disaster is largely forgotten, but the same region is now home to more than six million people. Simulations of a 23-day storm there indicate that more than $400 billion of damage and losses would occur, far surpassing the $60 billion estimates for Hurricane Sandy‚Äôs effects. New research also shows that climate change may make these storms more likely to occur.”

Most of this storm is hitting far south of us (Washington State), but we’ve been very wet and it looks like it’s going to stay that way.
I imagine that it’s going to dump a ton of snow in some places which helps the west get through dry summers by keeping reservoirs full. The obvious concern is for California, as the article stated, the flood of 1861 wiped out Sacramento.
Ah, setting the stage for the 2012 apocalypse…
For more information, see Scientific American at this link



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