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Atmospheric river – what is it. How often do atmospheric rivers form. How dangerous are they

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Atmospheric rivers are storms, which he says are “like rivers in the sky.” They carry huge amounts of water with them. They can cause floods and mudslides, kill people and cause huge material damage. A series of such weather events has been hitting California since December 26 last year with unprecedented frequency. Across the state, at least 19 people died as a result of the severe weather.

Atmospheric rivers act as wind tunnels that transport huge amounts of water vapor from warm ocean waters to mid-latitude land. They can reach inland even far from the ocean, reaching, for example, Germany or Poland in Europe. Such a river moves at an altitude of 1.5-2 kilometers above the surface, and when it reaches land, it descends rapidly in the form of heavy rain or heavy snow.

How often do atmospheric rivers form? Are they always dangerous? How do they relate to climate change? The answers to these questions have been prepared by the Reuters Agency.

HOW OFTEN ARE ATMOSPHERIC RIVERS FORMED?

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“Rivers in the sky” as they are called – are relatively common and appear in various places on Earth. According to NASAthere are about eleven of them in the world at any given time.

The city of Merced, California underwaterPAP/EPA/LIPO CHING

HOW STRONG ARE THE ATMOSPHERIC RIVERS?

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that atmospheric rivers can carry up to 15 times the volume of water of a mighty river like the Mississippi.

Storms and floods in CaliforniaPAP/EPA/PETER DASILVA

Most atmospheric rivers, however, are relatively weak and cause no damage. On the contrary, they can be useful, providing a much-needed supply of water in the form of rain or snow, which mitigates the threat of drought.

WHICH ATMOSPHERIC RIVERS OF RECENT YEARS WERE CONSIDERED TO BE PARTICULARLY DAMAGEOUS?

In 2019, the atmospheric river that was named Pineapple Express (Pineapple Express) hit the west coast of the USA. The steam that came from Hawaii brought heavy rain and caused dangerous mudslides. Cars floated on highways and many people became homeless.

In 2021, the atmospheric river dropped in two days monthly rain standard for British Columbia, Canadacausing deadly floods and landslides, destroying entire tracts of land and cutting off access to Canada’s largest port – Vancouver.

Storms and floods in CaliforniaPAP/EPA/PETER DASILVA

HOW DOES AN ATMOSPHERIC RIVER LOOK LIKE WHEN “FLOWING” IN THE SKY?

Like streaks of delicate clouds that can stretch for hundreds of kilometers.

Atmospheric rivers over the Pacific on October 14 and 17, 2017 NASA

HOW CAN CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECT ATMOSPHERIC RIVERS?

According to research from 2018, due to climate change, the number of atmospheric rivers may decrease in the coming years, but they will be more extensive and longer and more abundant in water. As a result – more destructive.

Flooding in California PAP/EPA/CAROLINE BREHMAN

Reuters, scienceoklimacie.pl, tvnmeteo.pl

Main photo source: PAP/EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO



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