Explainer-Flooding in California: What are ‘atmospheric rivers?’

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Atmospheric rivers are storms akin to rivers in the sky that dump massive amounts of rain and can cause flooding, trigger mudslides and result in loss of life and enormous property damage. Rain and snow fed by an atmospheric river pummeled California for days, causing severe flooding and killing at least 19 people across the state. HOW COMMON ARE ATMOSPHERIC RIVERS? These “rivers in the sky” are relatively common, with about 11 present on Earth at any time, according to NASA. Most atmospheric rivers are weak and do not cause damage. In fact, they can provide much needed …

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