What are atmospheric river storms? And how is climate change affecting them?

La Palma’s Volcanic Ash Spreads Across Atlantic

The European Space Agency released fascinating imagery last week showing how the ash plume from the La Palma volcano eruption is charging westward across the Atlantic Ocean. The ash is passing through the atmosphere right at the tail end of peak hurricane season.

Considering that things have been (blessedly) quiet in the Atlantic for the past few weeks with regards to hurricanes, it makes sense to wonder about La Palma’s impact on hurricane season. While the ash is certainly something that can slow down hurricane season, we likely have other factors to blame, though.

Scientists at ESA’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service have been tracking the ash plume since the volcano first started erupting in late September. Initially, the plumes of sulfur dioxide from the volcano traveled east from the Canary Islands to northern Africa and southern Europe, eventually getting to parts of northern and western Europe. Thanks to a change in wind direction in early October, though, the plume is now flowing roughly 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) across the Atlantic and over the Caribbean…READ ON

What are atmospheric river storms? And how is climate change affecting them?

Ask people to name the world’s largest river, and most will probably guess that it’s the Amazon, the Nile or the Mississippi. In fact, some of Earth’s largest rivers are in the sky – and they can produce powerful storms, like the ones now drenching northern California.

Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow bands of moisture in the atmosphere that extend from the tropics to higher latitudes. These rivers in the sky can transport 15 times the volume of the Mississippi River.

When that moisture reaches the coast and moves inland, it rises over the mountains, generating rain and snowfall. Many fire-weary westerners welcome these deluges, but atmospheric rivers can trigger other disasters, such as extreme flooding and debris flows.

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