A powerful atmospheric river pummeled California, and the pictures look unreal

On Wednesday, San Jose Mercury News photojournalist Karl Mondon spotted a man in flooded Guerneville, California rowing through town in a blue dumpster.

A potent atmospheric river — a long band of water vapor that often transports ample amounts of moisture to the western U.S. like “rivers in the sky” — deluged portions of Northern California this week. The Russian River, which winds through the Sonoma County town of Guerneville, reached over 45-feet high and swamped the area, prompting the Sheriff to announce on Twitter that the town had been surrounded by water — with no way in or out.  

While California relies heavily on these wintertime atmospheric rivers for its water, scientists expect these storms to grow dramatically wetter as Earth’s climate heats up. 

“We’re likely to see rain in increasingly intense bursts,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in an interview.

“This really was a firehose aimed at Sonoma County,” Swain added.

GUERNEVILLE, CALIFORNIA. – FEB. 27: Playland Miniature Golf course in Guerneville, California, is enveloped in flood waters before dawn from the rising Russian River flood, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Photo by Karl Mondon/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

Image: MediaNews Group via Getty Images

The Russian River flows under the old Guerneville Bridge

Image: Karl Mondon/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

People gathered on a partially submerged RV in the flood waters of the Russian River.

Image: Michael Short/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Though it can be challenging to attribute any particular blast of rain to extreme weather stoked by climate change, this destructive event does have a telltale climate fingerprint. 

“It does seem to be another data point suggesting individual atmospheric rivers are becoming wetter,” said Paul Ullrich, a climate scientist at the University of California at Davis.

Flood waters in Sebastopol, California, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019.

Image: Jane Tyska/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Residents stand on the rooftop of a home in Guerneville, California, preparing to evacuate after the Russian River flooded the town.

Image: Karl Mondon/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

“This year is exemplary,” said Ullrich, noting that atmospheric rivers dumped excessive amounts of rain in California during January. “It very much supports that hypothesis.”

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Generally, scientists expect California’s rainy season to become shorter and more contracted — but still have about the same amount of rainfall as in the past. That means more extreme deluges. 

Once heavy rains repeatedly hit California, they set the stage for floods. The ground becomes oversaturated with water. 

“That sets up the whole system to overflow,” said Ullrich.

A submerged truck in Forestville, California.

Image: Michael Short/AP/REX/Shutterstock

A submerged pickup truck in Forestville, California on Feb. 27,  2019.

Image: Michael Short/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Future atmospheric rivers are expected to bring loads of water from both the tropics and drier areas over the ocean, said Swain. Due to simple physics, as the atmosphere warms, the air is able to hold more water vapor. Specifically, for every 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming, the air can hold seven percent more water.

In the last century, Earth has warmed by 1 degree Celsius, and the warming trend is expected to continue, as climate scientists around the world repeatedly underscore. 

On Tuesday, a National Weather Service station in the California city of Santa Rosa broke its record for daily rainfall. 

“That’s a pretty impressive statistic,” said Swain.

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source: yahoo.com