California's atmospheric rivers

If you live in California – as I unfortunately do – you've no doubt noticed the torrential downpour we've been getting, quite at odds with the Golden State's reputation for sun and sand. Given the occasion, I thought it was worth taking a look at one potential culprit: atmospheric rivers, a little-known meteorological phenomenon responsible for fueling storms much like the one that just slammed southern California. More than a decade ago, Boing Boing ran a piece about these very same phenomena, but they're worth a reexamination in the wake of California's strange wet spell – and eleven years of worsening climate change, which has only jacked up the frequency of atmospheric rivers. Essentially, it's water vapor in the atmosphere, which then eventually flows to certain areas – Los Angeles is a big one – and becomes rain or snow. Quite a lot of rain or snow, as it happens. Climate change has only given them more fodder, which means that we could see more storms like last week's fairly soon. This video from Scripps Oceanography provides a slightly more in-depth explanation, in case you're curious: