Scientists at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography have studied the movement of atmospheric rivers and concluded that global warming has led to a significant increase in moisture carried by these weather systems, Phys.org reports.
Atmospheric rivers are large swaths of moisture that stretch in the sky from the tropics to higher latitudes. They are capable of carrying 15 times more water than the Mississippi River. When moisture reaches the coast, it hits the land with abnormal rainfall, causing flooding.
Atmospheric rivers are predicted to increase and store more water as the planet warms.
In arid areas, these weather systems can replenish water supplies and extinguish forest fires. In humid latitudes, they cause floods, mudflows and landslides, causing damage and loss of human life.
In February 2019, an atmospheric river brought a stream of water vapor 2.5 thousand km long and 560 km wide to the coast of Northern California, where 53 cm of rain fell in a day, causing a flood. The damage in Sonoma County alone totaled $ 100 million.
Atmospheric rivers cause $ 1.1 billion in damage annually in the western United States.
Experts have modeled how atmospheric currents will change in the near future. The planet heats up more and more, more water evaporates from the oceans and lakes, which is retained in the atmosphere, and the increased air humidity strengthens storm systems.
Climate stabilization remains the only way to contain the rise of atmospheric rivers and storms.