Stunning Imagery: A Huge Cyclone and an Atmospheric River

From the Cliff Mass Weather Blog

Cliff Mass

Sometimes you see meteorological imagery and just say wow.

Today a huge low center extends over much of the northeast Pacific, while an impressive plume of moisture–an atmospheric river– stretches southwest-northeast towards the California coast.

The infrared satellite image this morning shows the situation, with the white areas indicating higher clouds.

Want to be impressed even more?    Here is the water-vapor satellite image at the same time, viewing the emission of water vapor to space.  Scary for northern California!

For reference, here is the sea-level pressure analysis at the same time, with low-level temperatures and winds also shown.  Perhaps the largest low-pressure center I can remember spreading over a vast area.  With warm air from the southwest on the southern side (orange colors).  That is the atmospheric river.

To really hit that home, below is a map for the same time (this morning) of a potent diagnostic of atmospheric rivers, integrated vapor transport, IVT.   This describes how much water vapor is being pushed around by the wind.

Blue colors show very high values in the core of the atmospheric river.

Substantial precipitation will fall today and tomorrow in California and Oregon from this atmospheric river (see forecast below).   Northern California has been the most anomalously dry part of the Golden State.  No longer.

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strativarius
January 12, 2023 2:36 am

The weather situation in California was reported in the press and media from climate change expert, Ellen DeGeneres.

In short, if you’re nicer to Mother Nature the rain will stop.

Well, she believes it.

Nevada_Geo
Reply to  strativarius
January 12, 2023 2:54 am

Ms. DeGeneres may be unaware that the drought in CA has lasted twenty years so far, and that for once Mother Nature is finally being NICE to California. Or perhaps Ms. DeGeneres believes that water comes not from the sky, but from plastic bottles. An understandable error.

strativarius
Reply to  Nevada_Geo
January 12, 2023 2:58 am

DeGeneres may be unaware”

I think you’re being far too kind…

MarkW
Reply to  strativarius
January 12, 2023 8:21 am

Leftists are experts at being unaware of anything that doesn’t fit into the narrative.

TBeholder
Reply to  MarkW
January 12, 2023 12:27 pm

In other words, live in the la-la land. At least the rank-and-file ones. Though once those on top don’t have sources other than the praise of their lackeys, it’s just another flavor of la-la land (also known as “let them eat cake”).

DMacKenzie
Reply to  Nevada_Geo
January 12, 2023 8:12 am

She’s certainly unaware of the great flood of 1862.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Flood_of_1862
or how high her creek was at that time….

Last edited 24 days ago by DMacKenzie
Dave Fair
Reply to  DMacKenzie
January 12, 2023 9:58 am

“How high is the water, Ellen? Six feet high and rising.”

garboard
Reply to  Nevada_Geo
January 12, 2023 10:55 am

i think jane fonda already explained how toxic masculinity is causing catastrophic weather extremes

Ron Long
Reply to  strativarius
January 12, 2023 6:57 am

strativarius, I watched Ellen DeGeneres interviewed on CNN, and she said (close to actual): This creek never has water in it, has never had water in it, now it is flooding and will get higher. We need to take better care of Mother Earth”. How does a creek form if it never has water in it? It’s in Kalifornia so maybe it is a fault fissure? No? Maybe the drought is so bad (the drought status still continues for Kalifornia) that the earth cracked? No? Maybe Ellen DeGeneres is a total looney idiot? Getting closer to reality.

Beta Blocker
Reply to  Ron Long
January 12, 2023 7:39 am

If someone attempted to explain the basic processes through which landforms develop over long periods of time, could identifying these processes as ‘geomorphology’ send Ms. DeGeneres into a catatonic state simply because the term has too many syllables in it?

Dave Fair
Reply to  Ron Long
January 12, 2023 10:03 am

Not only do Leftists have trouble defining the word “woman,” but they can’t even describe a creek.

Scarecrow Repair
Reply to  Dave Fair
January 12, 2023 10:16 am

She is no geologist.

Drake
Reply to  Ron Long
January 12, 2023 6:21 pm

Thank you for your sacrifice for the greater good, watching CNN so those of us here would not have to.

ResourceGuy
Reply to  strativarius
January 12, 2023 9:10 am

Hollywood morphologists no less

Dave Fair
Reply to  strativarius
January 12, 2023 9:55 am

We get our science from degenerate entertainers.

vuk
January 12, 2023 3:08 am

North American weather is too variable and totally unsuitable for development of prosperous and advanced civilisation.
European and Asian transplantation are only partially successful attempts to rectify the natural drawback.

Last edited 24 days ago by vuk
Peta of Newark
Reply to  vuk
January 12, 2023 3:28 am

even I’m struggling with the potential sarc of that one.
did I just double it

OKaaaay, where is that system headed?

My guess is roughly North East of where it is…

  • Where it will meet some mountains
  • when upon a huge mass of warm air will propelled upwards
  • which may, may not, impinge upon the Polar Vortex
  • which being a prudent device will expend the energy so contained into some turbulence
  • which will ‘upset’ the flow/direction of the Jet Stream
  • which will open The Gates of Hell
  • a monster will emerge ##

## iow. A humongous lump of very cold air will descend from out of the stratosphere, sweep south and west over Canadia (not that they’ll notice) and thereafter everywhere from North Dakota to Orlando will see their ba11s frozen off.

?

johnesm
Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 12, 2023 6:22 am

H/t Lumbergh from Office Space…

Yeeaahhh, so if you could just go ahead and get that atmospheric River over the continental divide onto the Front Range and give us some snow in eastern Colorado, that’d be greeaat. Thanks!

Ron Long
Reply to  johnesm
January 12, 2023 7:00 am

The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range now has 226% above normal snow pack, perhaps they could share some?

taekovuhoser
Reply to  Ron Long
January 12, 2023 7:42 am

Don’t give them any ideas. Every so often, they propose to pipe water from the Cascades in Washington to California.

Beta Blocker
Reply to  taekovuhoser
January 12, 2023 8:11 am

taekovuhoser: “Don’t give them any ideas. Every so often, they propose to pipe water from the Cascades in Washington to California.”

Forty years ago, expensive studies were being done to see if Colorado’s oil shale formations could be mined for kerogen which could then be processed at the mine site into a proto-petroleum liquid for pipeline transport to a refinery.

The on-site processing of the kerogen and the use of pipeline transport required massive volumes of water which were not available on the Colorado plateau. Two options were being proposed at the time.

One proposed solution was to build fifteen or so 1100 MWe size nuclear reactors on the coast in California to desalinate sea water and pipe it inland to Colorado. As a bonus, these reactors could also supply a good portion of California’s civil infrastructure water needs.

The other proposed solution was to tap the Columbia River and pipe the water across the western US into Colorado. The obvious issue here, in addition to the costs and the environmental consequences, is that the citizens of the US Northwest were never going to allow their water to be stolen.

Thankfully, Colorado’s oil shale will never be tapped because the enormous environmental damage it would cause simply can’t be accepted by any rational person.

The downside for us nukies when the government and the oil companies finally gave up on Colorado oil shale in the mid-1980’s was that a possible opportunity to push for the construction of fifteen new reactors in California was terminated with prejudice.

Last edited 24 days ago by Beta Blocker
Dave Fair
Reply to  Ron Long
January 12, 2023 10:06 am

And transport it to underserved communities of color.

Moriarty
Reply to  vuk
January 12, 2023 8:15 am

I think we will be alright. We can handle whatever weather we get.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Moriarty
January 12, 2023 10:08 am

No, Mankind cannot adapt to climate change.

Drake
Reply to  Dave Fair
January 12, 2023 7:04 pm

Yep, that is why we all still live in caves.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Drake
January 12, 2023 7:51 pm

Man caves

John Shewchuk
January 12, 2023 3:38 am

The use of atmospheric rivers is a media scare tactic for jet streams. Jet Streams don’t flood, but Rivers do. This is no different than calling rapid cyclogenesis a Bomb Cyclone. In fact, cyclones don’t explode, they implode as air converges due to low pressure. Anticyclones explode as air expands under high pressure.

strativarius
Reply to  John Shewchuk
January 12, 2023 3:47 am

Look, stop making sense. Ok?

Duane
Reply to  John Shewchuk
January 12, 2023 4:57 am

Rivers are vewy vewy scawy things for most people … especially when in flood. So naturally the warmunists and the whoring media adopt terms to make perfectly ordinary and common weather phenomena that happen many times every year sound vewy vewy scawy.

Reply to  John Shewchuk
January 12, 2023 5:36 am

The term was used for heavy rain events in California long before heavy rain was considered apocalyptic. It has simply morphed into the modern chicken little framing.

Last edited 24 days ago by Charles Rotter
John Shewchuk
Reply to  Charles Rotter
January 12, 2023 5:58 am

Agree — and by avoiding the “jet stream” terminology, they produce a disconnect from jet stream dynamics which drives weather events and its causes … like maybe differential solar heating … which might have something to do with the 7-year pause or cooling trend.

Reply to  John Shewchuk
January 12, 2023 6:20 am

The other old term I haven’t heard for awhile is the Pineapple Express. As in rain coming from Hawaii (area).

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/pineapple-express.html

Pineapple Express has a warm and fuzzy feeling to it, as well as seeming like a regular, not out of the ordinary occurrence.

Last edited 24 days ago by Charles Rotter
strativarius
Reply to  Charles Rotter
January 12, 2023 6:33 am

Wasn’t Pineapple Express also a mildly amusing film?

Last edited 24 days ago by strativarius
abolition man
Reply to  Charles Rotter
January 12, 2023 9:34 am

I remember going out in the warm, spring rains in Commiefornia, wearing a swimming suit and riding my bicycle around our driveway.
I must have been only 6 or 7; what was my mother thinking!?

Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  Charles Rotter
January 12, 2023 3:10 pm

Charles
Pineapple express is exactly what they used to call atmospheric rivers.

Sales is all about “$100 words” as we term it.

Atmospheric river goes with Bomb Cyclone (blizzard) goes with Polar vortex (winter high pressure) goes with etc etc.

Sales 101. Got to sell it

Duane
Reply to  Charles Rotter
January 12, 2023 1:40 pm

Per Wikipedia, the term is actually rather recent, and clearly coincides with and is amplified by warmunism:

The term was originally coined by researchers Reginald Newell and Yong Zhu of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 1990s to reflect the narrowness of the moisture plumes involved.[3][5][10] Atmospheric rivers are typically several thousand kilometers long and only a few hundred kilometers wide, and a single one can carry a greater flux of water than Earth’s largest river, the Amazon River.[4] There are typically 3–5 of these narrow plumes present within a hemisphere at any given time. These have been increasing[11] in intensity slightly over the past century.

Russell Cook
Reply to  John Shewchuk
January 12, 2023 8:13 am

The new repurposing of the “atmospheric river” term creeped me out the moment I first heard it recently. For my atmospheric physics friends, isn’t the monsoon flow into India each year an ‘atmospheric river’? Isn’t the huge summer rain flow up into Arizona from northern Mexico an ‘atmospheric river’? Isn’t a hurricane an ‘atmospheric river’ that’s been turned into a really big swirling eddy? How do we differentiate between an ‘atmospheric river’ and an ‘atmospheric creek’ or an ‘atmospheric lake’? How about an ‘atmospheric swamp’?

John Shewchuk
Reply to  Russell Cook
January 12, 2023 8:28 am

Absolutely right. I never heard the media alarmingly speak of monsoons as atmospheric torrents, or tidal waves of water vapor. The media, and especially The Weather Channel, is cloaking common atmospheric processes with freaky Halloween rhetoric. Heaven forbid anyone ever mention how the sun is controlling it all, except for some volcanoes and extinction level asteroids.

MarkW
Reply to  John Shewchuk
January 12, 2023 8:25 am

They were calling them atmospheric rivers back in the 60’s when I lived in California.

Drake
Reply to  MarkW
January 12, 2023 7:10 pm

Funny but I don’t remember that on the news. And a post above, after your post, says WIKI has the term as “originally coined” in the early 90s. Yep, that is what Wiki says.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Drake
January 12, 2023 7:54 pm

I never heard the term until a couple years ago, and I’ve been reading this site for a looong time.

Scarecrow Repair
Reply to  John Shewchuk
January 12, 2023 10:18 am

I liked the old term “Pineapple Express”.

John Shewchuk
Reply to  Scarecrow Repair
January 12, 2023 12:15 pm

At least that’s an edible versus scary version.

David Dibbell
January 12, 2023 3:55 am

Powerful. This is a good time to be reminded that a one inch per hour rate of rainfall represents about 17,600 W/m^2 conversion of latent energy into work and motion. And one inch of precipitable water in the atmosphere represents about 17,600 Watt-hours/m^2 of stored energy for transport.

In other words, the atmosphere is mocking the single-digit W/m^2 forcings and feedbacks of the greenhouse gas warming claims, as I see it. Those non-condensing GHGs are completely powerless to stop the overwhelming effects of what water and water vapor do in our highly mobile atmosphere.

Last edited 24 days ago by David Dibbell
Jeff L
Reply to  David Dibbell
January 12, 2023 7:15 am

If you could provide the details on the math on this metric, I for one would be super interested – it would be a great to have for a number of associated analyses.

Related – when looking at atmospheric energy balances / imbalances , what is the typical total number used for work the atmosphere is doing and how well do we really know that number? I usually see #s for latent heat / change of state and convection but does that cover all the work the atmosphere is doing ?

Erik Magnuson
Reply to  Jeff L
January 12, 2023 8:01 am

The volume of one over the area of a square meter is just under 1600 cu in, or close to a cubic foot. Figure that’s about 60 pounds, and figure heat of evaporation of 1000 BTU/lb, so we’re looking at ~60,000 BTU/hr-m^2. With 3412 BTU/kwhr, his numbers sound about right.

David Dibbell
Reply to  Erik Magnuson
January 12, 2023 8:39 am

Good quick check. Thanks.

David Dibbell
Reply to  Jeff L
January 12, 2023 8:33 am

Using 2.507 x 10^6 J/kg heat of vaporization (here https://rda.ucar.edu/datasets/ds625.0/docs/jra-25_model_constants.html ) This is for about 0C, which makes sense for the atmosphere. This is higher than it would be at the 100C boiling point.
And taking 1 inch = 25.4 mm = same as 25.4 kg/m^2 precipitable water
(because 1000 liters in a m^3, 1 kg per liter)
And noting that 1 Joule = 1 Watt – second

Then 25.4 kg/m^2 * 2.507 x 10^6 J/kg * 1 W-s/J * 1 hour/3600 s = 17,688 W-h/m^2.

Or if 25.4 kg/m^2 is condensed into rain per hour, the rate is 17,688 W/m^2.

About your second question “but does that cover all the work the atmosphere is doing ?” – No. I am not a meteorologist, but the energy values defined and used by the ECMWF for the ERA5 reanalysis have proven helpful to me. See here and search for such terms as “vertical integral of total energy” “vertical integral of energy conversion” and click on the definitions. https://confluence.ecmwf.int/display/CKB/ERA5%3A+data+documentation

I hope this helps.

Last edited 24 days ago by David Dibbell
antigtiff
January 12, 2023 6:12 am

The rain will help save the tiny endangered rabbit in Washington State which is threatened by wildfires. Those wascally wittle wabbits will be saved….unless they drown?

rah
Reply to  antigtiff
January 12, 2023 7:23 am

Uh, no! These heavy rains will bring more than average growth of vegetation in the spring that will dry out and die in the summer and like has happened many times before, the Wildfire season is very likely going to be more severe than average.

And if, as many are predicting, the weakening La Nina ends and the SOI brings El Nino conditions by this summer, it will likely be even worse.

abolition man
Reply to  rah
January 12, 2023 9:40 am

Many ranchers in the arid Southwest would be willing to have their livestock used to mitigate the fire danger! Of course, the Pacific Coasters would have to provide the transport to and fro! How many head of cattle can you squeeze into a Tesla?

Ireneusz Palmowski
January 12, 2023 8:11 am

Two stationary upper-level lows (at 500 hPa) with Arctic air are circulating in the North Pacific, moving very slowly eastward. It is apparent that the zonal circulation is blocking in the North Pacific.
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Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  Ireneusz Palmowski
January 12, 2023 2:58 pm

For what its worth, really like your posts.

Ireneusz Palmowski
January 12, 2023 8:30 am

The reason for this state of circulation lies high in the stratosphere. The polar vortex at 10 hPa is shifted north over the Chukchi Sea which causes it to break over Alaska. The effect in the lower stratosphere is that in the North Pacific the polar vortex splits into two branches. The southern branch will direct the jet stream over California. This is a harbinger of a string of precipitation on the US west coast. The stratospheric vortex pattern is very stable.
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Last edited 24 days ago by Ireneusz Palmowski
Ireneusz Palmowski
January 12, 2023 8:42 am

Already very high in the stratosphere at 5 hPa you can see the asymmetrical distribution of ozone. An accumulation of ozone over Siberia is visible. Throughout the column, this results in a large accumulation of ozone over the North Pacific. You can perfectly see the waves of ozone over the North Pacific, which correspond to the current course of jet currents in the upper troposphere.
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Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  Ireneusz Palmowski
January 12, 2023 2:56 pm

A russian friend sent me at text saying new siberian temperature record -73C.

Is there anything official out there regarding this?

Ireneusz Palmowski
Reply to  Pat from Kerbob
January 13, 2023 12:38 am

At the Zhilinda station on Siberia, the temperature dropped to -61.9 °C (-77,8 F). It is the lowest temperature recorded in Siberia since 2002.
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Ireneusz Palmowski
Reply to  Pat from Kerbob
January 15, 2023 1:17 am

It remains extremely cold in Siberia. There was just recorded -62.4 °C in Tongulakh, new all-time low at this station. Moreover, it is the coldest temperature in Siberia since 2002.  
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John Oliver
January 12, 2023 9:01 am

It is just not that unusual. Ask an experienced mariner or aviator (especially the ones that are retired now) . These types of formations are pretty typical at certain times of the year.
In 1968 we were returning to the states from Japan on a 610 ft passenger/cargo ship in early spring when we encountered a huge storm off the coast of California. Waves crashing into the super structure all way up to the Bridge deck.Crew said it was “worst storm they had ever been in”.
Probably due to the coming ice age.(my words)

Larry Hamlin
January 12, 2023 9:33 am

I see the politically driven climate alarmist idiots at the LA Times are pushing the “climate change” cause for this low pressure system. Pathetic.

abolition man
January 12, 2023 9:44 am

God, I love this site!
Where else can you get such a wealth of REAL science and information; the comments just as much as the articles!
This old dog may not be turning any new tricks, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still love learning!

Dave Fair
Reply to  abolition man
January 12, 2023 10:19 am

Write down WUWT access information and hand it out to everybody you know.

Dave Fair
January 12, 2023 9:53 am

My God! Just look at the power of the CO2 molecule. Before Man, there was never such climate disruption.

Robert Wager
Reply to  Dave Fair
January 12, 2023 11:31 am

Except for the fact CO2 was 6-7000ppm (~15x today) about 500 million years ago and somehow the earth did not have runaway global warming. But today the massive risk of 420 going to 840 (doubling) is the only thing humans have to think about.

RickWill
January 12, 2023 12:39 pm

All that white stuff in the sky created by a tiny amount of atmospheric water solid controlling Earth’s radiation energy balance. And then we are supposed to believe that water VAPOUR is the most powerful “greenhouse gas”.

It is images like these that should be posted around the walls of the climate model prognosticators who think clouds can be parameterised with no physical relationship to the the surface and atmospheric conditions.

Ireneusz Palmowski
January 12, 2023 1:13 pm

On Jan. 14, a cold front with rain and snow in the mountains will be over California.
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Pat from Kerbob
January 12, 2023 3:02 pm

We were in Maui for christmas, thankfully missed the -35C in Calgary, but for the first time we were there for a real storm, got pounded pretty good december 18-20, wind, waves, rain, thunder and lightning, quite impressive

And a thousand times better than -35. Loved it all.

Assume they are going to get it again from this series of lows sweeping by to the north pulling the river along behind

Ireneusz Palmowski
January 13, 2023 12:27 am

More Pacific lows on their way to California.
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Ireneusz Palmowski
January 13, 2023 8:00 am

Heavy precipitation is beginning to appear north of San Francisco and will move over California.
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Ireneusz Palmowski
January 13, 2023 12:57 pm

A low is fast approaching California, which will bring heavy downpours tomorrow.
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Ireneusz Palmowski
January 13, 2023 2:47 pm

Very heavy snowfall in the mountains of California today.
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