A torrential cascade of water tumbles from the sky, and roads can no longer be seen as they drown under several inches of rain. This is now the life of all Californians as they experienced an atmospheric river caused by global warming. To understand the drastic changes happening in California, we must first understand what an atmospheric river is and how it is affecting the state.
What is an Atmospheric River?
Firstly, an atmospheric river is a type of storm named for its narrowness and can carry humid air thousands of miles. While these storms can cause flooding, mudslides, and more, they are also a necessary part of the water cycle. Essentially, most atmospheric rivers “are weak systems that often provide beneficial rain or snow that is crucial to the water supply”. However, the reason these storms are getting larger and growing more dangerous is because of climate change. Burning fossil fuels warms the atmosphere which can lead to consequences such as the atmospheric rivers ruining the lives of many in California. Since the atmosphere is heating up, warm air can hold more moisture and with more moisture, the storms will be far more fierce.
Many towns in California have been flooded and several hundred citizens have been urged to evacuate their homes. In fact, a levee on the Pajaro River collapsed causing “massive flooding and prompted hundreds of evacuations and dozens of water rescues”. The collapse was about one hundred feet wide. Approximately one thousand seven hundred people living in the town of Pajaro recently learnt that their hometown was underwater. At least ninety six of these citizens were put in shelters after authorities conducted sixty rescues. Many of these rescues had utilized “high-water vehicles, the sheriff’s diving team and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s swift-water team”. The majority of citizens in that town were farmers and many are out of work as long as the fields stay submerged.
Another atmospheric river was predicted to hit California early this week. Meteorologist Cindy Kobold predicted that “this next atmospheric river event is not looking like it’s going to be as strong, but when you have a flood on top of a flood, it just makes a bigger flood.”
Even though it will not be as powerful, it will build on top of the last storm which will lead to it having an even larger impact than the previous one. Furthermore, Gerald Meadows, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service stated that the next storm will bring “as much, if not more, flooding impacts”. Tornados and flash flood warnings have also been issued in several counties.
This remains yet another warning to us that global warming is not a faint threat on the horizon. It is here and already impacts us in our day-to-day life. Hopefully the citizens of California will remain safe and the threat of global warming becomes more of a priority.