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7th February 2024 (12 Topics)

Atmospheric River

Context

Parts of Los Angeles received a storm powered by an atmospheric river hit the state. Known as a ‘river in the sky’, the weather phenomenon can produce torrential amounts of rain.

What are Atmospheric Rivers?

  • Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport most of the water vapour outside of the tropics.
  • Size: Atmospheric rivers can be between 400 and 600 kilometres wide. They can be over 1,600 kilometres long.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, atmospheric rivers can carry up to 15 times the volume of the Mississippi River – which is the 15th largest river in the world.

  • Atmospheric River Formation:

    • Atmospheric rivers usually begin over tropical regions. Warm temperatures cause ocean water to evaporate and rise into the atmosphere. Strong winds help to carry the water vapour through the atmosphere.

    • As atmospheric rivers move over land, the water vapour rises up farther into the atmosphere. It then cools into water droplets, which fall as precipitation.

  • Impacts:

    • Heavy rainfall associated with ARs can cause flooding, landslides and mudslides.

      • They can also lead to water supply disruption, and develop drought-like conditions.

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