What is an atmospheric river? With millions of people under flood alerts, a hydrologist explains the good and bad of these storms and how they’re changing

A satellite image shows a powerful atmospheric river hitting the U.S. West Coast on 2024 Jan 31. NOAA GOES

By Hydrologist, Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, University of California, San Diego
Millions of people were under flood alerts and winter storm warnings on 2024 Jan 31 and Feb 01, as a series of atmospheric rivers brought heavy downpours and the threat of flooding, mudslides and avalanches to the Pacific Northwest and California. Another powerful storm was expected a few days later.

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