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How rising temperatures are intensifying California’s atmospheric rivers

How rising temperatures are intensifying California’s atmospheric rivers

The Atmospheric Rivers that have battered California this winter are part of a system that has long interrupted periods of drought with huge bursts of rain - indeed, they provide somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of all precipitation on the West Coast. The family of storms that descended on the state this week only underscored this danger, shattering snow records and overtopping levees across the state. Climate change is making these storms much wetter and more intense, ratcheting up the risk of potential flooding in California and other states along the West Coast. When an atmospheric river touches down in North America, it releases all its moisture. Depending on where you are along the West Coast, you encounter that moisture as either rain or snow: lower-altitude areas like the Central Valley experience heavy rains, while mountainous areas like the Sierra Nevada see massive mounds of snow.

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