Atmospheric River Pummels West Coast as East is Slammed by Yet Another Nor’Easter

Today the alerts were sounding in California. Areas recently denuded by extreme wildfires such as Santa Barbara are threatened by debris flows as rainfall amounts of 1-6 inches (up to ten inches locally) are predicted. Meanwhile, the U.S. East Coast braces for the fourth strong nor’easter in three weeks.

Welcome to your weather screwed up by human-caused climate change.

Atmospheric River Brings Landslide Risk to California

Warmer than normal ocean surfaces in the range of 0.5 to 2.5 C hotter than average are bleeding off an excessive volume of moisture across the Northeastern Pacific today. These elevated moisture levels are, in turn, forming into a train of rain-bearing systems aimed fire-hose like at California. This atmospheric river is expected to produce storm after storm after storm. Systems that are predicted to dump between 1 and locally 10 inches of rain over sections of Southwestern California and parts of the Sierra Nevada Range over the next few days.

(An atmospheric river takes aim at California. Image source: MIMIC-TWP.)

These heavier than normal rains are expected to fall over regions hard hit by last summer’s unusually intense wildfires. These fires were both larger and burned hotter than is typical. And, as a result, they have denuded entire regions of trees that previously anchored the soil. Now, with such heavy rains approaching, California is again facing a serious risk of landslides and debris flows.

Fourth Nor’Easter in Three Weeks

As flood and debris flow alerts pop across California, the fourth strong nor’easter to form in three weeks is gathering off the U.S. East Coast. Like the atmospheric river presently taking aim at the West Coast, the nor’easter is gathering over waters that are much warmer than normal — ranging as warm as 9 C above climatological averages in parts of the Gulf Stream off Maine. And it’s also gathering energy from an upper level pattern that has been in place since a major polar warming event rocked the Arctic during February.

(Extremely warm sea surfaces off the U.S. East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico are providing an extra intensity boost to nor’easters forming across the region. Storms that according to recent science were made two to four times more likely by climate change associated polar warming events. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Yesterday, the building storm sparked severe weather across Alabama, Missippi and Georgia — producing large hail, tornadoes and heavy rains. Today, the system is flinging frozen precipitation across the I 95 corridor even as it prepares the batter the East Coast with yet one more bout of gale force winds and heavy seas.

Conditions in Context — The Increasing influence of Climate Change on U.S. Severe Weather

High sea surface temperatures, high atmospheric moisture levels, and a polar-warming linked procession of nor’easters striking the U.S. East Coast are signature influences of human-caused climate change. And each is playing a role, to one degree or another, in the pair of major weather events that are presently developing or underway across the U.S. To wit, the increasingly frequent large fires across the Western U.S. have deforested many hillsides in California and led to the increased risk of debris flows following heavy precipitation events in parts of the state.



Leave a comment


  1. wili

     /  March 20, 2018

    Thanks as always for the great coverage and analysis. Meanwhile, another rain bomb…three inches in twenty minutes, turning streets to raging rivers:


  2. One well worth a read
    Coal Field to Forest: “People Seem Happier”
    In the UK, a transformation from the dystopian landscape of the coal mines, a massive project over 25 years creating a new vibrant world with huge economic, social and lifestyle benefits
    The other Item is the transformation of Inner Mongolia’s Kubuqi Desert
    Kubuqi’s transformation burnishes China’s credentials as an environmental leader at a time when Washington is retreating from its international commitments. When President Donald Trump refused to reconsider U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate agreement, which he announced on June 1, France’s newly elected President Emmanuel Macron said it flat out: “Now China leads.”


    • paul

       /  March 21, 2018

      We have less time than we realise.


    • wili

       /  March 21, 2018

      Very very sad, but somewhat predictable after the recent German study that found European insect populations to be rapidly collapsing.


  3. John McCormick

     /  March 21, 2018

    Robert, OT

    ON Feb 20, I responded to a survey tht popped up after my comment. I gave you a favorable response and another popup offered free prizes. I chose the flashlight and not the pen. I received both and billed for about $25. The light did not work and I complained about the pen I did not select. I was refunded $19.99 and requested a replacement flashlight. I received it and it did not work. Another call to the supplier said I have to add 3 AAA batteries. The flashlight cannot fit 3 batteries.

    Today, I was hit with the same survey and did not reply. I see the whole deal is a fraud. The light was offered as a $55 product. It is not. Your commenters should be advised not to respond to the survey.


    • John —

      Thank you for letting me know about this.

      WordPress is a social media blog site and I have no control over what ads appear here. But I will send a statement to WordPress on your behalf as a complaint. Moreover, I’d look at all ads as foreign and highly recommend not clicking on the links. I have no idea where they come from or who they represent.

      UPDATE: In response, I have posted this comment on the WordPress support forum.


      • John McCormick

         /  March 21, 2018

        Thank you, Robert


        • If I don’t hear back from them this afternoon, I’ll post more on the support forum. In this case, it looks like we may have both been exploited. Me for my name and you for your trust.


  4. testuser

     /  March 21, 2018

    looking for popup



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