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The water cycle and atmospheric rivers

From NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The water cycle is often taught as a simple circular cycle of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation.

Although this can be a useful model, the reality is much more complicated. The paths and influences of water through Earth’s ecosystems are extremely complex and not completely understood.


Image from NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Liquid water evaporates into water vapor, condenses to form clouds, and precipitates back to earth in the form of rain and snow.

Water in different phases moves through the atmosphere (transportation).

Liquid water flows across land (runoff), into the ground (infiltration and percolation), and through the ground (groundwater).

Groundwater moves into plants (plant uptake) and evaporates from plants into the atmosphere (transpiration).

Solid ice and snow can turn directly into gas (sublimation).

The opposite can also take place when water vapor becomes solid (deposition).

Atmospheric river

from the NOAA website

Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics.

Atmospheric River GIF

These columns of vapor move with the weather, carrying an amount of water vapor roughly equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River. When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they often release this water vapor in the form of rain or snow.

North America from space

Although atmospheric rivers come in many shapes and sizes, those that contain the largest amounts of water vapor and the strongest winds can create extreme rainfall and floods, often by stalling over watersheds vulnerable to flooding.

These events can disrupt travel, induce mudslides and cause catastrophic damage to life and property.

A well-known example is the “Pineapple Express,” a strong atmospheric river that is capable of bringing moisture from the tropics near Hawaii over to the U.S. West Coast.

Not all atmospheric rivers cause damage; most are weak systems that often provide beneficial rain or snow that is crucial to the water supply. Atmospheric rivers are a key feature in the global water cycle and are closely tied to both water supply and flood risks — particularly in the western United States.




Difference between weather and climate

From The National Center for Atmospheric Research and UCAR Office of Programs


Weather radar

What is the difference between weather and climate? Weather is what the forecasters on the TV news predict each day. They tell people about the temperature, cloudiness, humidity, and whether a storm is likely in the next few days.

Weather is the mix of events that happens each day in our atmosphere. Weather is not the same everywhere. It may be hot and sunny in one part of the world, but freezing and snowy in another.

Climate is the average weather in a place over many years.

While the weather can change in just a few hours, climate takes hundreds, even thousands of years to change.

Explanation by Neil deGrasse Tyson

From Neil deGrasse Tyson ShowsWeather Is Not Climate With One Very Simple Demonstration, The Huffington Post, Sarah Barness


“Weather is what the atmosphere does in the short-term, hour-to-hour, day-to-day,” the “Cosmos” host explains in the clip above. “Weather is chaotic, which means that even a microscopic disturbance can lead to large scale changes. That’s why those 10-day weather forecasts are useless … Climate is the long-term average of the weather over a number of years. It’s shaped by global forces that alter the energy balance in the atmosphere, such as changes in the sun, tilt of the Earth’s axis, the amount of sunlight the Earth reflects back into space and the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the air.”

Weather Versus Climate Change | Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (YouTube)

[In this video] Tyson compares weather to the irregular, sporadic pattern of his dog. Though it’s difficult to predict where the dog is going, we can know the range of his meandering because he’s on a leash. Conversely, Tyson’s straight path is like the climate, which is broadly predictable by observing long-term changes in global forces. Both man and dog have their own patterns, but both are going in the same direction.



Can we stop a hurricane

Can we stop a hurricane?

Can tropical cyclones be stopped?


Can Science Halt Hurricanes? Tropical cyclones are nature’s most powerful storms. Can they be stopped?


Engineers could stop hurricanes with the ‘sunglasses effect’ — but it’d require a huge sacrifice


What would be need to stop a hurricane?


Offshore wind farms could tame hurricanes before they reach land, Stanford-led study says


Hurricane Research Division NOAA: Tropical Cyclone Modification and Myths



“Taming Hurricanes with Arrays of Offshore Wind Turbines,” appears online on Feb. 26 in Nature Climate Change