Thursday May 2, 2024


Clarke Knight studies just how far back in history, massive atmospheric river storms wreaked havoc on California.

As she reviewed her recent findings on a computer at her then-home in Menlo Park, the power went out. The cause? An atmospheric river in February of last year.

“It was kind of an ironic moment to be thwarted by the very thing I’m trying to understand,” said Knight, a USGS research geographer who studies paleoclimatology — the effects of weather on Earth in the past.

By looking 3,200 years into the past, Knight extended atmospheric river knowledge significantly: twice in three millennia, atmospheric river activity exceeded anything in modern instrumental record keeping, deluging the state with widespread rainfall beyond what current Californians have ever experienced.

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