Atmospheric Rivers

Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics. These columns of vapor move with the weather, carrying an amount of water vapor roughly equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

A typical AR can be 300 miles wide, a mile deep and more than 1,000 miles long making them the biggest freshwater rivers on Earth,.

In addition to being long, fast and packed with moisture, ARs can behave erratically, changing direction unpredictably.

When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they often release this water vapor in the form of rain or snow.

North America from space. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Although atmospheric rivers come in many shapes and sizes, those that contain the largest amounts of water vapor and the strongest winds can create extreme rainfall and floods, often by stalling over watersheds vulnerable to flooding. These events can disrupt travel, induce mudslides and cause catastrophic damage to life and property. A well-known example is the “Pineapple Express,” a strong atmospheric river that is capable of bringing moisture from the tropics near Hawaii over to the U.S. West Coast.

Not all atmospheric rivers cause damage; most are weak systems that often provide beneficial rain or snow that is crucial to the water supply. Atmospheric rivers are a key feature in the global water cycle and are closely tied to both water supply and flood risks — particularly in the western United States.

While atmospheric rivers are responsible for great quantities of rain that can produce flooding, they also contribute to beneficial increases in snowpack. A series of atmospheric rivers fueled the strong winter storms that battered the U.S. West Coast from western Washington to southern California from Dec. 10–22, 2010, producing 11 to 25 inches of rain in certain areas. These rivers also contributed to the snowpack in the Sierras, which received 75 percent of its annual snow by Dec. 22, the first full day of winter.

NOAA research (e.g., NOAA Hydrometeorological Testbed and CalWater) uses satellite, radar, aircraft and other observations, as well as major numerical weather model improvements, to better understand atmospheric rivers and their importance to both weather and climate.

Scientific research yields important data that helps NOAA’s National Weather Service forecasters issue warnings for potential heavy rain and flooding in areas prone to the impacts of atmospheric rivers as many as five to seven days in advance.


Seven Day Forecast

GRAND RAPIDS WEATHER


KALAMAZOO WEATHER


LANSING WEATHER


Pollen Forecast


We begin another period of unsettled weather today through Thursday with cloudy skies and periodic rain, perhaps a few storms added into the mix midweek.

My next door neighbor showed me some morels she found yesterday in her yard, so if you like the tasty mushrooms, now is the time to go out and find the elusive critters.


 

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Sandy (Hudsonville)Barry in ZeelandINDYRocky (Rockford)Mark (East Lansing) Recent comment authors
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Rocky (Rockford)
Rocky (Rockford)

We have had many months in a row of below normal temps and no change is in sight! Let’s hope this lasts all summer long! I absolutely love it!

Rocky (Rockford)
Rocky (Rockford)

Just another great Spring day for Barry to work outside!

INDY
INDY

Lol….Rain coats needed….INDY!

Barry in Zeeland
Barry in Zeeland

What is your fascination with what I do outside? Yes, I did get the entire lawn mowed after dinner this evening and it was perfect out. Maybe you look like working outside when it’s 90 degrees, I do not. If you really need to watch me, I can send MV links to my webcams so he can pass them on to you so you can sit in your basement and watch.

Sandy (Hudsonville)
Sandy (Hudsonville)

Perfect weather for outdoor stuff when the rain stopped today. I hope it misses us the rest of the week too.

INDY
INDY

I love my man cave in my basement it’s the coolest place in the summer…Rocky your welcome over anytime …INDY!!

Rocky (Rockford)
Rocky (Rockford)

Rock on!

Slim

This week looks to be on the cool and at times maybe wet side. The high/low yesterday of 70/40 (at GR) was near average (-0.1) so now GRR has reported 10 days in a row of below average mean temperatures and the departure for May is now at -3.3°
Slim

Mark (East Lansing)
Mark (East Lansing)

Yesterday was picture perfect.

Rocky (Rockford)
Rocky (Rockford)

That may be the only above average temp day you see all month! How incredible would that be?