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Climate Change Making Atmospheric River Storms Stronger Claim–Not Supported By Actual Data

February 2, 2021

By Paul Homewood


 This is the sort of drivel that passes for science these days:


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 one now soaking 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 and sometimes causing extreme flooding.

Atmospheric rivers are an important water source for the U.S. West. NOAA

In the past 20 years, as observation networks have improved, scientists have learned more about these important weather phenomena. Atmospheric rivers occur globally, affecting the west coasts of the world’s major land masses, including Portugal, Western Europe, Chile and South Africa. So-called “Pineapple Express” storms that carry moisture from Hawaii to the U.S. West Coast are just one of their many flavors.

My research combines economics and atmospheric science to measure damage from severe weather events. Recently I led a team of researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Army Corps of Engineers in the first systematic analysis of damages from atmospheric rivers due to extreme flooding. We found that while many of these events are benign, the largest of them cause most of the flooding damage in the western U.S. And atmospheric rivers are predicted to grow longer, wetter and wider in a warming climate.


The article goes on to great lengths to tell us the bleedin obvious- that heavy rain can cause flooding. And then ends up claiming not only that heavier rain will occur in future, but also that this is already happening, without the slightest evidence being offered:

A moister atmosphere means worse storms

Our most significant finding was an exponential relationship between the intensity of atmospheric rivers and the flood damages they caused. Each increase in the scale from 1 to 5 was associated with a 10-fold increase in damages.

Several recent studies have modelled how atmospheric rivers will change in the coming decades. The mechanism is simple: Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, warming the planet. This causes more water to evaporate from oceans and lakes, and increased moisture in the air makes storm systems grow stronger.

Like hurricanes, atmospheric rivers are projected to grow longer, wider and wetter in a warming climate. Our finding that damages increase exponentially with intensity suggests that even modest increases in atmospheric river intensity could lead to significantly larger economic impacts.

I believe that improving atmospheric forecasting systems should be a priority for adapting to a changing climate. Better understanding of atmospheric rivers’ intensity, duration and landfall locations can provide valuable information to residents and emergency responders.

It also is important to discourage new construction in high-risk areas and help people move to safer locations after major disasters, rather than rebuilding in place.

Finally, our study underlines the need to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. These storms will keep coming, and they’re getting stronger. In my view, stabilizing the global climate system is the only long-term way to minimize economic damage and risk to vulnerable communities.

Particular reference is made to atmospheric river events in and around Sonoma County near San Francisco. So let’s check what CLIMOD2 has to say about winter rainfall trends there.

There is clearly little trend in total winter rainfall, which can vary considerably year on year. Four of the five wettest winters were in the 19thC:



As for the maximum daily rainfall each year, the tops were 1866/67, 1981/82, 1995/96 and 1861/62. Again there is no evidence to support the article’s assertion:


The author, Tom Corringham, a Postdoctoral Scholar in Climate, Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography, admits that his research is confined to economics and atmospheric science. Consequently his work is at best theoretical, and should not be used to make unsubstantiated claims about what is actually happening.

  1. Gamecock permalink
    February 2, 2021 11:37 am

    The objective isn’t to inform; it is to scare.

  2. Harry Passfield permalink
    February 2, 2021 12:13 pm

    .Findings’? Of what, models?

  3. Robert Christopher permalink
    February 2, 2021 12:20 pm

    “It also is important to discourage new construction in high-risk areas and help people move to safer locations after major disasters, rather than rebuilding in place.”

    Or even, don’t build on flood plains in the first place.

  4. David V permalink
    February 2, 2021 12:42 pm

    The essence of this research seems to be that bigger storms cause more damage – surprise, surprise! The rest is theoretical speculation…

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      February 3, 2021 9:43 am

      And if you damage more expensive stuff the cost of the damage is higher. Thank goodness he studies economics or we wouldn’t have realised that.

  5. Jackington permalink
    February 2, 2021 12:42 pm

    This description and these diagrams are the same as presented to me in elementary school but nobody told me they were rivers – gosh! how I missed out.

  6. February 2, 2021 12:47 pm

    Jet streams are horizontal rolling vortices.

    On Earth the solar zenith bow-shockwave disruptor, that is so clearly visible in the upper atmosphere of slowly rotating Venus, tracks west over the tropics at supersonic speed.
    We can see the impact of the passage of this disruptor on the Earth’s atmosphere in the re-enforced concentration of daily equatorial thunderstorms phase locked where the ocean is bounded to the west by land.

    On Earth there are three examples of this ocean to land transition phase locking for the location of equatorial storms:
    1. The Amazon basin to the west of the Atlantic ocean and walled by the Andes on its western side.
    2. Southern Africa to the west of the Indian ocean.
    3. The Indonesian archipelago to the west of the Pacific ocean.

    Here is a particularly good example of this solar disruptor effect from the Southern African summer rains. WorldView Indian ocean 03Dec2020. Notice the re-enforcement of the disruptor shock-wave over the Southern ocean, and to the north in the Indian ocean, the land ocean boundary impact of the southern tip of India on storm cyclogenesis.

    This example is from the Pacific ocean for the same day.
    The bow shock wave is clearly visible over the Pacific sourced from the location locked daily storms over Indonesia. Note the northern hemisphere track of the upper atmosphere bow shock wave and the rolling jet stream vortex track of the so-called atmospheric river delivering vorticity to the storm systems approaching the coast of California. Worldview Pacific Ocean 03Dec2020

  7. Broadlands permalink
    February 2, 2021 1:12 pm

    These phenomena were first named ‘atmospheric rivers’ in 1994 by Newell & Yong Zhu at MIT. Presumably, nature knew about them long before that. They are part of natural variability and to suggest that human added CO2 (aka climate change) can affect them to make them stronger is remarkable arrogance, ignorance? Then to suggest that lowering our CO2 emissions and stabilizing the climate will minimize their impact is even worse.

    • February 2, 2021 2:24 pm

      I agree, they are part of the standard meteorological process that occurs on our rapidly rotating Earth. This is mass motion dynamics of air on a rotating globe that has absolutely nothing to do with CO2.

  8. bobn permalink
    February 2, 2021 2:51 pm

    Its just the line of the northern ITCZ (intertropical convergence zone) running further south and dumping on California. Normally it dumps on Oregon and washington State. The topography of California makes it dramatic due to the origraphic mountain effect of it being lifted over the Sierra nevada/rockies. So not much rain in San francisco from this ‘river’ but 6ft of snow at Tahoe. Of course that snow will melt and flood back to the pacific.
    Nothing unusual here, just california recieving some UK weather. Yes we are normally under the ITCZ though its running low to the south so france, spain and italy all getting flooded.

    • alexei permalink
      February 2, 2021 5:47 pm

      “Normally it dumps on Oregon and washington State.”
      Well, here in Washington state, it certainly feels as if we’ve been experiencing an atmospheric river throughout this winter. Can’t wait for spring!

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      February 2, 2021 8:03 pm

      You can say that again. Water, water everywhere in Burgundy at the moment on no let up for a fortnight. Though we are promised a couple of days of snow for light relief at the beginning of next week!

  9. Teddy Lee permalink
    February 2, 2021 3:05 pm

    “In my view, stabilizing the global climate system ######.” As easy as that! Get the JCB ready!
    This guy calls himself a skyentista!

  10. February 2, 2021 5:48 pm

    Right . . AGW (LOL) was responsible for the 1861-62 43-day atmospheric-river storm turned California’s. Central Valley region into an inland sea. Los Angeles received 66 in (4X’s normal), and Washington State and Oregon were also in the pipeline.

    But, if history repeats itself, indeed they will blame AGW for it.

  11. Don B permalink
    February 2, 2021 5:54 pm

    In California, beginning in December 1861, there was an atmospheric river which lasted 43 days! Human CO2 emissions could not have been the cause.

    “The flood decimated California’s burgeoning economy. An estimated 200,000 cattle drowned, about a quarter of all the cattle in the ranching state (the disaster shifted the California economy to farming). One in eight houses was destroyed or carried away in the flood waters. It was also estimated that as much as a quarter of California’s taxable property was destroyed, which bankrupted the state.”

    ….”This kind of flood has occurred about once every 100 to 200 years over the past 1,800 years. It will happen again. (This time it will be blamed on climate change.)

    …”One final note–this massive flooding occurred after two decades of devastating drought. California is not a user-friendly habitat.”

    • Curious George permalink
      February 2, 2021 6:05 pm

      On Inauguration Day, January 10, 1862 the state’s eighth governor, Leland Stanford, traveled by rowboat to his inauguration building held at the State Legislature office. Much of Sacramento remained under water for 3 months after the storms passed. As a result of flooding, the California State Legislature was temporarily moved to San Francisco during rebuilding and renovating the sunken city of Sacramento. [Wikipedia]

  12. Gary Kerkin permalink
    February 2, 2021 8:27 pm

    Once upon a time The Conversation was a reputable journal. Now it seems to be a hotbed of alarmism, and not just of climate. I ignore most references to it which probably runs counter to learning more about the “enemy”.

    • dave permalink
      February 3, 2021 9:12 am

      It is “reification” and “religion” isn’t it? First you jump to a vague idea about how the world works, then you give it a name, and then you think it is ‘a thing’ with a minor God in it. If you are truly arrogant you think you can control the God by magical rituals. When that doesn’t work you grovel and beg him to please ignore his humble servant rather than smiting him. It is all laid out in the first few chapters of Frazer’s mammoth, epic book on magic, religion, and mythology, ‘The Golden Bough.’ Of course Frazer thought he was dealing with mere relics of the Savage’s mind and that modern society knew how to control itself and ignore such foolish mental urges.

  13. Phoenix44 permalink
    February 3, 2021 9:41 am

    Measuring the cost of something isn’t Economics and more than measuring how much rain has fallen is Physics. These self-important nobodies really do think they are on a par with actual scientists and economists but they are doing little more than science projects for 12 year olds.

  14. BLACK PEARL permalink
    February 3, 2021 4:55 pm

    Seem to remember from the past, that the regular events of moisture laden winds from the Pacific hitting the west coast, being called the Pineapple Express, or is that something different ?

    • Mr T. permalink
      February 4, 2021 10:06 am

      I mentioned that on weather forums and got laughed out. Guess we all must live in alternate realities.

  15. BLACK PEARL permalink
    February 4, 2021 7:50 pm

    Here it is

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