Atmospheric River Reaching California

  • Released Thursday, July 30, 2015
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Atmospheric rivers are narrow corridors or filaments of concentrated moisture in the atmosphere that account for most of the pole-ward transport of water vapor around the globe. Atmospheric rivers consist of narrow bands of enhanced water vapor transport, typically along the boundaries between large areas of divergent surface air flow, including some frontal zones in association with extratropical cyclones that form over the oceans.

Atmospheric rivers play a central role in the global water cycle. They are the major cause of extreme precipitation events (which may cause severe flooding) in many mid-latitude, westerly coastal regions of the world, including the west coast of North America, western Europe, and the west coast of North Africa.

This project illustrates an atmospheric river that developed between the 9th and 12th of December 2014, stretching across Hawaii to California based on water vapor data and IMERG precipitation data. The visualizations show the IMERG precipitation data over the white, cloud-like water vapor. Heavy precipitation is shown in shades of red while lighter rains are shown in greens (see the color bar below).

In the visualization above, the time step (the period) between two consecutive frames represents a quarter of an hour.

In the visualizations below, the time step between two consecutive frames represents half hour.

Color bar for liquid precipitation in IMERG dataset

Color bar for liquid precipitation in IMERG dataset


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

Release date

This page was originally published on Thursday, July 30, 2015.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 at 1:49 PM EDT.

Datasets used in this visualization

Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details, nor the data sets themselves on our site.