Winter rain and snow typically provide much of the water used throughout the year in California, which has suffered several years of punishing drought. But when these storms, which are known as atmospheric rivers, are particularly severe or sweep through in rapid succession, they can do more harm than good, delivering too much water, too quickly, for the state’s reservoirs and emergency responders to handle. These storms get their name from their long, narrow shape and the prodigious amount of water they carry. As humans continue burning fossil fuels and heating the atmosphere, the warmer air can hold more moisture. This means storms in many places, California included, are more likely to be extremely wet and intense.
By Raymond Zhong. New York Times. January 3, 2023.