Eric Holthaus, a journalist/meteorologist for Slate, fills us in on the good news of an atmospheric river hitting California this week.
This week’s storm will usher in an atmospheric river event, also known as the “pineapple express,” peaking late Wednesday and Thursday. The National Weather Service office in the Bay Area has predicted “the strongest storm of this season to date,” and possibly the strongest since 2008 or 2009, with potential results including “downed trees, power lines, flooding and mudslides.” Wind gusts could exceed 80 mph at higher elevations.
Heavy rainfall could fall at rates up to an inch an hour and could exceed 8 inches in the mountains. The high Sierras are in line for up to 4 feet of fresh snowpack. The National Weather Service notes there’s potential for this storm to stall out over the Bay Area as well, in which case the risk of mudslides and dangerous flooding could quickly increase. Just offshore, ocean temperatures are much warmer than usual, which the NWS says could argue in favor of the more intense rainfall scenario.
The pics posted by the national weather service show it reaching SoCal too:
The great news is that, as Kevin Roderick at LA Observed noted, the high pressure system that had been blocking these storms has shifted eastward, opening the door to real weather for us. This cannot possibly prove or disprove anything climatological, as Holthaus alluded to in his separate discussion of the NOAA study of causation of the California drought, but it's certainly well-timed.
The rain is coming thanks to an eastward shift in the rain-blocking ridge that dominated the Pacific Coast last winter and helped intensify the drought. That shift is helping to open the door for major storms to approach the state from the tropics.
No matter how much rainfall the storm brings, this year’s heat will have already left its mark. Amid controversy over the drought’s place in climatological history, there’s now a 100 percent chance of 2014 becoming California’s warmest on record.