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Climate Change Creates Giant Rivers in the Sky

Feb 27, 2017 10:14 AM EST
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Atmospheric rivers can hold up to 15 times more water than the amount that flows through the Mississippi River.
(Photo : Mario Tama/Getty Images)

After going through five years of drought, California is now under a new threat.

Since the beginning of the year, California has experienced major storms, extreme flooding and severe landslides. New research has connected these to atmospheric rivers.

Tech Times defines atmospheric rivers as jet of moisture responsible for most of the horizontal transport of water vapor outside of the tropics.

According to the study, atmospheric rivers can hold up to 15 times more water than the amount that flows through the Mississippi River. But more than the massive amount of water it can bring, the study notes that atmospheric rivers also carry strong winds that are twice as strong as the speed of the average storm.

Atmospheric scientist Duane Waliser told NPR, "Not only do [atmospheric rivers] come with this potential for flooding hazards, they also come with potential for high impact winds and extremes that can produce hazardous conditions."

Read Also: Global Warming Hiatus Isn't Real: New Study Confirms Ocean Warming is Faster Than Ever 

The researchers collected data of atmospheric river occurrences between 1997 and 2014. They have found out that atmospheric rivers are responsible for up to 75 percent of all extreme wind and rainfall events on the world's coasts.

The team also measured how atmospheric rivers affect the extremity of storms and found out that about half of the top two percent of the windiest storms around the globe are associated with atmospheric rivers.

IB Times cited that in areas such as western Canada, northern Europe, New Zealand and southern South America, atmospheric rivers occur on up to 35 days a year.

It is feared that climate change will further intensify the formation of atmospheric rivers because warmer air can hold more moisture. This means that the capacity of atmospheric river to hold water will further increase, bringing more catastrophe and damage to properties.

A few weeks ago, the Oroville dam has suffered erosion due to extreme rainfall, leading to evacuation of nearly 200,000 residents in nearby countries. The research has been published in Nature Geoscience.

Read Also: Oroville Dam Crisis Not Over Yet, America's Tallest Dam May Not Withstand Incoming Storm 

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