Phenomena

The Atmospheric River

Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow corridors of concentrated water vapor transport in the atmosphere. They often occur when winds from storms over the ocean draw moisture together and project it ahead of a cold front. The phenomenon was only recognized in the 1990s, but subsequent research has shown that atmospheric river conditions account for many instances of heavy rainfall and flooding in areas along the West Coast of the United States. Forecasters can now recognize the phenomenon in forecast models, allowing them to predict potential flood-inducing rainfall days in advance. To learn more, check out NOAA’s atmospheric river Q&A. (Image credit: NOAA)

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