Thursday January 18, 2024

San Francisco Chronicle

Relentless storms over a three-week period in early 2023 created chaos across California, causing extensive flood damage and landslides in the East Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains.

The rains were fueled by nine atmospheric rivers from late December through mid-January. Bands of tropical moisture juiced up storm after storm, giving communities little time to recover between downpours. The series of storms was historic — but not the first time that back-to-back atmospheric rivers have had big impacts in California.

In the future, rising greenhouse gas emissions are expected to amp up the frequency, intensity and duration of such atmospheric river “sequences.” These stretches correspond with periods when California faced heightened potential for flooding, according to a new study by scientists from Stanford University and other institutions. 

“Sequences are, by definition, capturing these periods of time when we’re close to capacity and more likely to go over that tipping point into damage,” said lead author Corinne Bowers.  

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