More Weather Weirdness: ‘Atmospheric River’ To Drench Western U.S.

MILL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 24: Water kicks up as a truck drives on a flooded street on October 24, 2021 in Mill Valley, California. A category 5 atmospheric river is bringing heavy precipitation, high winds and power outages to the San Francisco Bay Area. The storm is expected to bring anywhere between 2 to 5 inches of rain to many parts of the area. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

At a glance

  • As if the weather has been weird enough, it’s about to get worse. Something called and “atmospheric river” is making landfall on the West Coast of the U.S., hitting everything from Washington state down to central California.
  • Travel to various parts of the state is already being threatened, particularly to inland areas such as Tahoe, after the National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch on Wednesday warning of 2-3 feet of snow on New Year’s weekend.
  • “Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “These columns of vapor move with the weather, carrying an amount of water vapor roughly equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River,” NOAA explains.

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