NOAA Researchers “Ride” Atmospheric River

Researchers flew in a NOAA’s G-IV jet through an atmospheric river and dropped small tubes with weather instruments to receive detailed data.

An atmospheric river is a current in the atmosphere that carries water vapor thousands of miles that eventually could deposits rain into localized areas. These currents of water vapor can cause serious flooding but they are also what supply a good amount of well needed precipitation for the U.S. west coast. On average, 30 to 50 percent of the total rainfall in a year along the west coast comes from only a few of these atmospheric rivers.

On Thursday, March 10, researchers on the G-IV jet covered over 3,500 miles from Honolulu to Ontario, California, dropping 42 small tubes with weather instruments while the system was tracking from the central Pacific. A second NOAA plane then received more data once the river made landfall.

Rob Cifelli, a NOAA meteorologist in Boulder, Colorado says that this is “huge” because we have never been able to track and receive data from an atmospheric river from when it was out at sea until it made landfall. This information was not only able to give real-time data to meteorologist from the National Weather Service but it will also help improve weather models and El Nino forecast.

To see an animation of the atmospheric river from last week click HERE.

Categories: Weather Blog, Weather Forecast