'Atmospheric river' hits US West Coast with rain and snow as satellites watch from space

satellite imagery showing clouds and water moisture above the far west of the united states
The NOAA GOES-West satellite shows water vapor and an 'atmospheric stream' near the U.S. west coast on Dec. 29, 2022. (Image credit: NOAA)

An "atmospheric river" is dumping a "pineapple express" upon the U.S. west coast, but no fruits are involved in this process.

Heavy rain and snow are visible in Earth-gazing satellites on Thursday (Dec. 29) gazing at the U.S. west coast, including several in the fleet of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

Much of California is now under flood watch after facing severe droughts and wildfires through 2022, NOAA said in a tweet (opens in new tab)

The state is now under an "atmospheric river", which is a thin region of the atmosphere that ship water vapor outside of the tropics, NOAA website materials (opens in new tab) add. And some of those effects include exports from Hawai'i.

Related: Satellite sees deadly blizzard and 'bomb cyclone' blanket the US (photos)

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The "Pineapple Express," NOAA officials said, is a form of atmospheric river that brings moistures from tropical regions near Hawai'i to the U.S. West Coast, a distance of some 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers).

"Not all atmospheric rivers cause damage; most are weak systems that often provide beneficial rain or snow that is crucial to the water supply," NOAA officials added. "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."

This time, however, the National Weather Service has some travel advisories for local residents who may be facing flood conditions, along with storm watches.

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Both NOAA and NASA have a fleet of Earth-gazing satellites constantly keeping a watch on the planet for weather forecasts, disaster response and long-term climate monitoring.

The information gained from the fleet can be useful in producing local forecasts. For example, after atmospheric rivers are spotted, NOAA can offer flood warnings to potentially affected regions as far as a week in advance, the agency said.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller (opens in new tab)?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace

  • MikeCollinsJr
    Admin said:
    'Atmospheric river' hits US West Coast with rain and snow as satellites watch from space : Read more

    Hi Ms. Howell, at what point in our futures shared in your opinion will we reach the "HD Weather Forecast" media world?
    Reply