The California Drought Is on Its Way Out, but Deeper Droughts Lie Ahead

Yves here. We sometimes mention the elephant in the room from the standpoint of growth: that of resource scarcity. Most analysts focus on energy or critical materials like rare earths. Yet potable water is the resource that is likely to come under stress first, by 2050 on current trajectories.

By Andrea Thompson, a senior science writer at Climate Central. Follower her on Twitter: @AndreaTWeather. Originally published at Climate Central

After a week of being walloped by major storms that have dumped copious rain and snow on the state, California is finally emerging from a deep, years-long drought.

Ski resorts in the Sierra Nevada mountains are flush with snow, while key reservoirs have filled back up. On Jan. 12, the U.S. Drought Monitor erased all drought in Northern California from the map and dialed back the severity over the southern half of the state.

There are, of course, still major deficits in groundwater levels that could take decades to replace and lingering ecological impacts, several experts said, but they agreed the situation had much improved.

“I think overall we’ve gotten through this drought amazingly well,” Jay Lund, a water resources analyst at the University of California, Davis, said.

One key concern going forward is how global warming may alter California’s notoriously boom-or-bust climate: Does it mean more, and more intense, drought? Will it strengthen the storms that bring the state most of its water? The current view is that it could mean both, effectively amping up the already wild variation the state experiences, though there is still uncertainty about some of the potential impacts of warming.

California’s Wild Climate Swings

Storms known as atmospheric rivers funneled moisture over California over the past week, bringing days of intense rain and snow. Rainfall totals reached more than 10 inches in some areas, while snows reached more than eight feet in parts of the Sierra Nevada mountain range (including a stunning 15-foot total at Mammoth Mountain).

The statewide snowpack is 161 percent of normal levels for the date and nearly three-quarters of the way to the average for all of the winter season. That abundant snowpack is a stark contrast to the measly 6 percent of normal levels at the end of winter in 2015 — likely the smallest snowpack in 500 years.

The mountain snowpack is crucial for the state because it supplies roughly 30 percent of its water, topping up reservoirs as it slowly melts during the dry spring and summer.

It’s not unusual for California to have dry years followed by wet ones; in terms of its hydroclimate, “it’s one of the most variable places in the U.S.,” Ben Cook, a climate scientist with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said.

Progression of drought in the U.S. since summer 2016.
Progression of drought in the U.S. since summer 2016.Climate Central

As the world, and therefore California, continues to warm because of the excess heat trapped by human emissions of greenhouse gases, that variability could become more intense.

“Even if precipitation doesn’t change … the temperature effect is going to be changing the system,” Cook said.

Deeper Droughts

For one thing, when dry years do occur, they’re going to be drier than they would be today because higher temperatures increase evaporation.

“It means the droughts, when they occur, are going to be that much deeper” and the recovery from them that much more difficult, Cook said.

Researchers have already suggested that warmer temperatures (which have risen by about 2.7 degrees F, or 1.5 degrees C, since preindustrial times globally) helped to worsen the drought of recent years. California had its hottest year on record in 2014 and its second hottest in 2015.

Warming also means that when storms hit in the future, more of their precipitation is likely to fall as rain rather than snow, diminishing the snowpack that is so crucial to storing water through the dry season. This trend is already evident: Since 1949, 68 percent of weather stations between elevations of 2,000 and 5,000 feet have seen a lower percentage of winter precipitation falling as snow, according to a Climate Central analysis.

Warmer temperatures, particularly in winter and spring, also mean that any snow present is likely to melt earlier and earlier, another trend already in evidence. About 1 percent of meltwater runoff has shifted from spring to winter over the past few decades, Lund said.

That shift means there’s less meltwater to keep soils moist come June and July, potentially taxing local ecosystems, as has been seen throughout the years of this drought. It also means reservoirs may not be able to capture all the water — too much water too early in the season can be a flood threat and requires water managers to release water from reservoirs. Such releases were done this week to protect against flooding in some locations.

Planning, Not Panicking

What’s less clear is how the overall warming of the planet might impact the major patterns in the atmosphere that help usher in some of the state’s dry and wet periods.

Sometimes, prevailing atmospheric patterns block the atmospheric rivers that are crucial to the West Coast’s water supply — just a handful of these storms account for 30 to 50 percent of annual precipitation the region sees. This happened during the recent drought, with the so-called “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” shunting these storms further north season after season.

Research by Daniel Swain, a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA, has suggested that these patterns are becoming more prevalent, though whether that’s linked to global warming isn’t yet clear.

On the flip side of that coin, climate models also suggest that more atmospheric rivers could impact California in the future, which means more chances for particularly big storms like the one that hit this week. That raises the risk of flooding, particularly when major storms hit back-to-back, as they may do this month, with forecasts suggesting another atmospheric river could impact the West Coast next week.

Events like the drought and the current storm show “how vulnerable we are to these swings in climate that already occur,” Swain said.

Given that existing vulnerability and the growing evidence that these climate swings will only intensify in the future, the potential impacts of climate change are something California will have to grapple with when planning for the future.

“I think things will be a little bit worse … than they are now, but not necessarily catastrophic,” Lund said. “We shouldn’t be panicking about this. We should be thinking about it, but not panicking.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. PlutoniumKun

    I think this highlights one of the big risks of climate change – one that in many cases isn’t fully appreciated even by professionals in the field – is that while scientists now have a very good confidence in global climatic models, the accuracy of prediction breaks down rapidly as you go to a more regional scale. In particular for coastal regions – due to the complex dynamics between ocean currents and local weather systems – there can be little confidence in any predictions for the short or medium term. Areas like California or Chile or western Europe might get much hotter – or they might get much colder. They might get drier or wetter (or as in California, perhaps both, depending on the timescale you look at). The only certainty is that there will be unpleasant surprises.

    1. Synoia

      the accuracy of prediction breaks down rapidly as you go to a more regional scale

      What accuracy?

      If there could be any accuracy, one could predict a place to settle to avoid the climate outcome.

      My money is on the African Plateau. But, it also has variable rainfall year to year. I’ve seen river rise from a trickle to 180 ft deep in hours after torrential rain.

      I’ve also lived through floods in the Witwatersrand (The Rand) – average height over 5,000 ft above sea level.

      The Vaal dam is a good measure of the Rand’s water supply, currently.

  2. Quanka

    And the regionality of impacts associated with climate change will make it more difficult to mobilize public opinion on the matter. It will be easy for denialists to point out regional climate forecasts that were incorrect and continue to sow doubts in the public.

    Climate change is best viewed as increased variability rather than a purely hotter/drier/wetter climate. The global climate system will be trying to balance itself out and down at the surface we humans will experience that has highly variable weather. 60s today, snow and single digits tomorrow. These things have always happened but will happen with increased frequency and variance going forward.

  3. Thor's Hammer

    “The California Drought is on its way out”? Confusing weather with climate is the most basic of errors that people fall into when discussing climate change.

    Full reservoirs and a massive snowpack will guarantee full swimming pools and irrigated cotton fields next summer but in no way signal the end of drought conditions during the next decade. The jet stream path that funneled a month of intense storms into California likely had it’s origins in the record warm high Arctic weather over North America and extreme cold in Siberia that occurred this late fall and early winter. Whether this pattern will persist or California will return to drought in a year or two is totally unpredictable.

  4. Jim Haygood

    “Climate models also suggest that more atmospheric rivers could impact California in the future.”

    In fact, another atmospheric river is forecasted this weekend:

    A new round of storms will take aim at California and the southwestern United States later this week and this weekend.

    Incidents of urban flooding are likely in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, California.

    Rain with potential flash flooding may also reach the desert cities of Las Vegas, Phoenix and Palm Springs, California, as the storms progress inland.

    After falling to a scary record low of 1071.71 ft last July 1st, Lake Mead skated past the 1075 ft threshold on Jan 1st that would provoke water cuts with 5-1/2 feet to spare.

    This winter’s heavy precip makes supply cuts in 2018 less likely, though it’s no long-term solution.

    Rumor has it that outgoing President What’s-his-name is headed for Palm Springs on Friday afternoon. His golf game is gonna get rained out. :-(

    1. Anon

      Lake Mead is in the Colorado River Basin. The precipitation that falls in the Sierra Nevada does NOT impact the lake level at Mead. While Lake Mead is a major source of water for Utah, Arizona, Nevada (south), and Southern California, and looses some 3 feet (or more) of elevation per month (avg.), It is the precipitation that falls in the Rocky Mountains (mostly) that fills the man-made reservoir that is “Lake Mead”.

      1. Jim Haygood

        Right. But those atmospheric rivers keep on truckin’ east after they cross the Sierra:

        DENVER (CBS4) – Talk about an amazing comeback!

        With nearly half of the snow accumulation season still to go, Colorado has already received about 75 percent of its annual statewide snowpack.

        A persistent jet stream has brought a parade of storms to the state in recent weeks, each one with large amounts of moisture from the Pacific Ocean.

  5. Enquiring Mind

    California is in the news also because it allows Nestle and others to tie up supplies of water for low prices. Who in California government is allowing such harmful behavior? Critical resources like water become weapons to use against the public when there are opportunities to extract money from consumers. Nestle and similar companies should be viewed as enemy agents bent on harming citizens.

    1. Xiaviar

      That really could be a possibility. but we really should be looking the government as the ones causing the harm because they allow such things.

    2. brad

      You are wrong. Drinking water companies pull water from lands they own or lease, AND, they produce filtered water from water that is available thru water companies, just like the water that comes from our taps is filterable with a home residential filter. As long as they PAY for water, nothing can be done.

      1. Harry

        You mean Nestle has as much right to Californian water as say, the California school system. One price for all? I don’t see it. I see nothing wrong with differential pricing.

    1. Skip Intro

      I thought that some regions in the central valley had pumped out so much groundwater that the land was ‘subsiding’, meaning that the aquifer was basically collapsing… permanently. Hopefully the subsidence has not wrecked too much aquifer, and the trend can be reversed.

      1. cojo

        Interesting point. I’m sure this is occurring at various locations. It all depends what the geologic conditions are at various aquifers. Most aquifers are caverns in limestone which slowly dissolves over time. Sinkholes are also a form of collapsing aquifers. It all depends on the depth of the aquifer, the conditions of the topsoil above the aquifer, etc. That being said, the major underground water aquifers are unlikely to be affected by these relatively “small” events.

        1. Piotr

          The aquifers in California Central Valley are tied up in sand and gravel zones and once the water in these zones is extracted they collapse and porosity and permeability of the zone is gone, never to be recovered. The land surface itself has gone down about 30+ feet due to this affect.

          1. ToivoS

            The sand and gravel zones do not collapse. It is the clay zones that are the problem. Sand and gravel zones after they dry out do not lose volume, they remain to accept new water. Clay shrinks when it dries out. The question seems to be what happens to those shrunken clays when they are rehydrated?

        2. Synapsid


          Limestone doesn’t host aquifers. An aquifer is material that retains water because, while it is permeable to water flow, that flow rate is very slow; it can be on the order of meters per year, for instance. Limestones themselves are generally impermeable but they do dissolve, as you point out, if fractures allow water to get in, and then void spaces form through which water can flow freely. You don’t want a water well in a limestone terrain, especially if there’s agriculture or industry up slope from you. Or septic tanks.

          Sand and gravel make the best aquifers, the less clay content the better.

          1. Cojo

            Thanks for the clarification. My conception had always been that most of the water settled in underwater caverns. I think it stemmed from a documentary on sinkholes in Florida. There were impressive videos of scuba divers swimming in limestone caverns deep under city streets. I guess those only make up a small portion of the water table.

    2. icancho

      Nature’s version of that is called ground-water … and commercial pumping like there’s no tomorrow has resulted in the water table dropping, and dropping, and dropping … the imbalance of incoming and outgoing remains.

  6. susan the other

    The Weather Channel called it the Pineapple Express of warm, heavy air, because it comes across the Pacific from Hawaii. This atmospheric river is dangerous. This last round of storms in the west, there were 4 big ones almost back to back, went from the west coast, across the Sierras and the Rockies and clobbered the midwest, creating ice storms an inch thick on roadways. And it still had enough moisture to clock NYC. Portland Oregon shut down and still hasn’t reopened. We were digging out constantly here in Utah. And now another one, or four. Those warm rivers of rain coming off the Pacific make landfall whether we are ready or not. I can imagine that even bigger storms will happen, 20 feet of snow; 20 inches of rain. At what point will we concede it is impossible to live in this stuff? Maybe it won’t get that bad that fast.

    1. steve

      Uhh, Susan…warm air is lighter than cold air. Methinks you have been watching too many made for tv movies…

      1. Synapsid


        Warm moist air will indeed ride up over colder drier air, and cool by expansion. That can lead to precipitation, generally rain, which will fall through the underlying colder air and freeze if that air is cold enough. It has been very cold in the Midwest.

    2. Waldenpond

      We have roads that were almost ready for single lane that are blocked again by new slides.

      I think that because we are mountainous (our roads are constantly crumbling/sliding down mountains), not much ingress/egress, we are used to dealing with roads that are shut in winter and undergoing major projects all summer. When traveling, people are familiar with weather and travel according to when storms will hit, predict the recovery time for the predictable traffic collisions and alternate routes.

      Not only are regions not planning on adapting, in the face of climate change they are continuing with business as usual in some instances. Citizens complained and protested against housing construction in a low lying area, stated there would be a owner paid for alarm system and public services would not be used to service the elite commune. First storm last year, public services were right there and again, this year. But don’t worry, a sand bag filling station is available for those that are less critical.

      It’s going to be a challenge for future generations as agriculture is on low lying areas (our energy plant is). Unfortunately, wetlands which are protective were drained to do some of this. In contrast to the housing construction, one region is putting back the old rivulets and plantings and demonstrating that cattle are compatible with wetlands.

      1. Anon

        Please cite the science/study that indicates that cattle are compatible with wetlands. Cattle certainly like green vegetation on wet land, but hoof compaction of soil is not a sustainable process.

  7. gepay

    I looked at the climate central study pointed to in the article. The data is from 1949 to it doesn’t say. You read it and tell if you can find what the percentage of change is – not the percentage of how many stations received more rain as percentage of precipitation. In the data sets , 1950 to 2000, the temperature in these US stations has warmed about 1oF so one should expect to get more rain in winter. What the study no where mentions is how much more rain has happened – it just says it happened at a majority of stations used in the study. So we can conclude if its warmer in winter one will get less snow and more rain but they didn’t say how much more. I don’t know about your life but in my life I expect many unpleasant surprises but the study wasn’t one of them. The title of course was alarming like so many climate articles -” MELTDOWN” (think Fukushima, an actual meltdown, still a major world problem 5years later and no end in sight)
    “Increasing Rain as a Percentage of total Winter Precipitation”

  8. Anon

    Didn’t read the study, but “Meltdown” likely refers to warmer temps melting the winter snows sooner/faster and overwhelming the California storage reservoirs. The water system in Cali is predicated on a slow snow melt gradually re-filling reservoirs during the long dry period known as summer in California (~May>November).

  9. wilpattuHouse

    And more moist air is lighter, very unintuitive.

    If you know Avagadros Law (fixed amount of molecules for a temp & pressure), molecular weight of nitrogen (N2=28) and water (H20=18) it makes sense.

    Lighter water/H20 replaces N2 in the fixed amount of molecules of air.

  10. Gaylord

    California’s wealthy and diverse economy can recover, but the most populous areas of the world may not be able to. Weather extremes and extended periods of anomaly are becoming the norm and will be exacerbated as abrupt climate change ramps up.

    The biggest concern globally over fresh water supply is the accelerated melting of Himalayan glaciers that provide water to billions of people in Asia. When that ice is depleted, and as sea level rise due to melting Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets floods low-lying coastal areas (such as Bangladesh), there will be mass starvation, mass migrations of refugees, and conflict as we have never seen before. The so-called civil war in Syria and the Arab Spring ware partially a result of severe droughts causing migration and escalating food prices. The East Coast of the U.S. will be inundated with storm surge flooding, causing mass evacuations. Goodbye, Miami (among other major cities). We are talking, in this century.

    People tend to slough off dire predictions, but the trends are now very clear. The earth’s climate moderating system has been thrown out of stability by the heat engine of human industrial civilization. We will soon face catastrophic consequences.

  11. different clue

    Why use the clumsy phrase atmospheric river? Why not say skyriver? Or skyrivers? More poetic and evocative , three less syllables.

    Or even Rivers in the Sky? Two more words and STILL one less syllable.

  12. DarkMatters

    IMHO, Judith Curry has the sanest for climate policy (end of video). She falls in the skeptic camp, and has recently been forced into retirement. Regardless of whether the “models” are correct or not, instead of trying to choke off US CO2 emissions, which at this point may or may not help the situation even according to the models, we should face the fact that weather and climate catastrophes are inevitable with or without man-made CO2. With this in mind, we should proactively improve the ability of our society to deal with effects of extreme weather, so that regardless of source, their effects will be mitigated. In the present case, we should accept the fact that droughts are inevitable, and plan our infrastructure accordingly.

    Recently, I decided to better inform my formerly favorable viewpoint toward the climate models with more informed examination, but deeper inspection didn’t have the expected outcome. The politics and research environment drip with the most blatant propaganda. One example is the oft-repeated claim that 97% of scientists support the notion that anthropogenic CO2 is causing catastrophic climate change, whereas the figure more accurately just reflects the appearance of buzzwords in 12-13000 papers. Data is constantly being subjected to questionable adjustments; the most recent inexplicably shifts respected sea buoy temperature data upward to agree with questionable ship measurements. On the other side, serious senior scientists have expressed deep reservations, not only regarding assumptions of the model (especially the 3-fold positive feedback between CO2 and water vapor), and whether or not warming and CO2 increase warrants the ensuing panic. Curry herself has retired under social pressure. At first, the energy industry was blamed for manufacturing scepticism, but there are now indications that they’ve changed their stance since the carbon market now affords them a channel for profit.

    I’ve become firmly agnostic. I’ve been familiarizing myself with the technical basis of the models, and reading about alternative climate explanations based on Svensmark’s work on the interaction between solar magnetism, cosmic rays, being studied at the CLOUD project at Cern. Contrary to the media groupthink, and much like the weather, the science is quite unsettled.

    I don’t believe that panic and chicken-little reactions are warranted, and I think that Curry’s advice is prudent. Such a policy will be beneficial regardless of outcome, and has no real downside.

    1. pissed younger baby boomer

      Are you a member of the Koch brothers tea party or do you work for them for a living .NICE try

  13. Dave

    The constant drumbeat in California for more high density housing “to prevent global warming” ignores the water issue. The stated idea is to build Transit Oriented Developments near new or improved train lines or bus facilities so that people will commute to their jobs on transit and thus emit less greenhouse gas.

    Each unit has, of course, a parking place and most residents do drive to work, if they work at all. Also, many of the alleged train riders have been cannibalized from existing bus lines that are then dropped because of the new train, which while more energy efficient than buses, forces people to drive their cars to distant train stations instead of catching a bus in their neighborhood.

    See the huge costs to build subways in once bus-rich Los Angeles that is built out. That system is finished.

    More important are the projects not yet finished or proposed such as the the notoriously expensive and poorly utilized ‘smart train’ in Marin and Sonoma Counties which serves as a basis for tens of thousands of new water hogging units to be built on what are open fields.

    There is no motivation to conserve water at all since these multi-unit structures have one shared water meter for all the residents, plus another for landscaping. It’s just a profitable scam to build more buildings, make more loans, harvest more interest and attract more grateful newly arrived and community strange easily manipulated residents.

    1. John Wright

      Your statement “the notoriously expensive and poorly utilized ‘smart train’ in Marin and Sonoma Counties which serves as a basis for tens of thousands of new water hogging units to be built on what are open fields.” is a speculation on the future.

      It can’t be based on actual passenger data as no passengers can ride on the Smart train currently.

      The Smart train is being tested and is not slated to be accepting passengers until late spring 2017,

      I suspect the ongoing highway 101 expansion in Sonoma County will do far more to encourage growth than the Smart train.


      There are 10 train stations shown on the current map, covering an approximate 50 mile distance, and a number of these stations re-use old downtown train stations (Santa Rosa, Petaluma), so it is not as if train stops are occurring in raw land ripe for development.

      And note, the freeway has many more exits for developers to exploit.

      It seems contradictory that a “poorly utilized” train would have much effect on water usage or ultimate growth in this area.

      I’d argue the build out of the freeway, and higher cost housing further south, are far more significant in driving development in this area known as “The North Bay”.

  14. tejanojim

    Hey, I checked the US Drought Monitor today, and it lists 49% of Cali as still under severe, extreme, or exceptional drought. So I’d fault the premise of this article that the current drought is on its way out. Hopefully true, but too early to call.

    1. Anon

      Yes, that’s true. Most of that is in Southern Cal. My town is re-introducing its moth-balled desalination plant to the populace. To the tune of $77M.

  15. blert

    Israel has broken the fresh water barrier.

    Israeli desalination plants are now able to produce fresh water at scale — and at prices low enough even for agriculture — let alone urban living.

    Indeed, it’s already apparent that desalinated water would be cheaper for Southern California than any further attempts at draining Northern California.

    This is a revolution in fresh water availability. It’s as extraordinary as anything to come down the pike or pipe.

    And, yes, this revolution is poorly understood, poorly publicized.

    And the cost reductions keep on coming.

    “Plastics!” has been supplanted by “Membranes!”

    1. DarkMatters

      About 5 years ago, in the face of drought predictions, California closed down several extant desalination plants. Another story discussed starting a new one near LA, privately-owned, of course. No one is minding the store.

      This membrane technology is one example of a direction in which we should be channeling our national technical effort. I’ve heard apocryphal stories that it’s extremely energy intensive. Of course, it would be socialist and therefore inefficient for the state to engage in this work, so we should pay some private party (along with the overhead of profit) to do the work.

      So many logs in the road.

    2. Synoia

      Israeli desalination plants are now able to produce fresh water at scale — and at prices low enough even for agriculture — let alone urban living

      Bullshit. They still require 1200 psi pressure to push the water through the membranes (through tiny holes).

      A very special form of Agriculture, dry land farming with drip irrigation. Forget field crops, think fruit & veg.

    3. Gcw919

      Carlsbad, CA has a desalinization plant that came on line fairly recently. It produces 50,000,000 gallons per day. From their website, the following statement explains the basic process:” Reverse osmosis works by pushing water – under intense pressure – though semi-permeable membranes to remove dissolved salts and other impurities.” Now the operative phrase here is “intense pressure.” That means intense energy use. While the plant claims it has many new energy-conserving features, the fact remains that more energy use means more atmospheric greenhouse gases, as the electricity to run the pumps comes from the nearby power plant, which uses natural gas. So the problems created by excessive use of carbon-based fuels are exacerbated in our attempts to respond to them. It might have made more sense to use the plant’s $ 1 billion cost for conservation efforts. And while the city and the local water district send out non-stop advisories about the drought, new home and apartment building continues unabated.

  16. juliania

    There’s something I really don’t understand, and probably I’m looking at this thing all wrong.

    We know that the huge ice fields north and south are rapidly melting, and most of that melt is going into the oceans, right? So, there’s a huge worldwide increase of water, plus warming oceans and atmosphere.

    Isn’t there going to be increased evaporation of all that water? Doesn’t that mean increased cloud cover? That’s certainly what we’ve been seeing this winter in New Mexico. And most of it is falling as rain this winter, due to the general warmup.

    I just don’t see how more drought is in the cards. I do see it will disrupt the usual patterns of snow melt for spring run off, and torrential rain isn’t a good thing – I just don’t see long dry spells as part of the mix. Sorry, I’m sure this is a foolish supposition, but I haven’t seen any information addressing this.

    1. Synoia

      Read the literature. Yes increased energy (heat) means more rain. However when, and how much it rains are projected to become more chaotic. Historically we, our farmers, have depended on a relatively consistent pattern of rainfall.

      Very heavy rain is as damaging to food crops as no rain. Lack of consistency means we have crop failures.

      1. juliania

        Thanks, Synoia, but I believe I said that. I agree, more chaotic. My question was about drought, though. Just seemed there would be less of that, not more. But I bow to your expertise.

  17. ewmayer

    Clarification re. last week’s storms vs the next series starting tomorrow: Last week’s – except for the much-weaker final one last Wed/Thu – were classic warm “pineapple express” moisture plumes coming from a southerly direction roughly out toward Hawaii. This next series will be from the northern Pacific (think more Gulf of Alaska way), much colder, less total moisture. The local media have applied the relatively-recent (at least in terms of its use in the MSM) term ‘atmospheric river’ to all these storms – that seems to be the vogue thing to do, but it’s both inaccurate (e.g. the last of the previous series of storms was pretty weak, drastically different in scale and wetness than the first 2), and less descriptive than e.g. “pineapple express”, which conveys the direction from whence the stuff is coming. I suspect the vogueness of the term ‘atmospheric river’ is due to its more-scientific-sounding-ness.

Comments are closed.