How Climate Change Is Shaping California’s Winter Storms – The New York Times

by | Jan 3, 2023 | Climate Change

Drenching rains forecast to pummel California on Wednesday and again over the weekend are poised to be the third and fourth major storms to march through in less than two weeks, raising the prospect of more misery in a season that has already brought flooding, debris flows and power outages to parts of the state.Over the weekend, rescuers scoured rural areas of Sacramento County looking for people trapped in homes or cars. Levees failed near the Cosumnes River and flooded a highway.Winter rain and snow typically provide much of the water used throughout the year in California, which has suffered several years of punishing drought. But when these storms, which are known as atmospheric rivers, are particularly severe or sweep through in rapid succession, they can do more harm than good, delivering too much water, too quickly, for the state’s reservoirs and emergency responders to handle.So far, this winter’s storms have been largely in line with past ones except in their unrelenting pace, said Michael Anderson, California’s state climatologist. “This is where we’re getting hit this year: We’re seeing a lot of big storms fairly quickly.”What is an atmospheric river?These storms get their name from their long, narrow shape and the prodigious amount of water they carry.They form when winds over the Pacific draw a filament of moisture from the band of warm, moist air over the tropics and channel it toward the West Coast. When this ribbon of moisture hits the Sierra Nevada and o …

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