Sky rivers: A new scale categorizes power of crucial atmospheric flows

Sky rivers: A new scale categorizes power of crucial atmospheric flows

By Cronkite News, 12/13/19

LA JOLLA, Calif. – You may have heard of the Pineapple Express – not the 2008 buddy comedy about marijuana, hit men and corrupt cops – but the long, narrow “river in the sky” that brings tropical moisture from Hawaii to the West Coast. Atmospheric rivers, which have been studied for nearly two decades, are flowing areas of water vapor in the upper atmosphere driven by areas of low pressure over an ocean. They are the source of most of the West Coast’s heaviest rains and floods. Researchers recently created a scale, similar to the one used for hurricanes, to categorize the strength and potential impacts of atmospheric rivers. This system could help communities prepare and respond to floods, and aid water managers calculating how much water will be available in any given year.