The North American Climate Services Partnership (NACSP)


New Story Map showcases NOAA Research on atmospheric rivers and their impacts

  • 13 September 2017
  • Number of views: 1234
New Story Map showcases NOAA Research on atmospheric rivers and their impacts

The NOAA Climate Program Office’s Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP) created a story map to describe how NOAA research is trying to better understand atmospheric rivers, their impacts on communities, and forecast them. Every year, the U.S. experiences roughly 10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,300 tornadoes, 2 Atlantic hurricanes (landfall), 100,000 wildfires, as well as several drought events. According to NOAA, these types of weather and climate events lead to 650 deaths and cost $15 billion in damage per year. Roughly one-third of the U.S. economy—some $3 trillion—is sensitive to weather and climate impacts. Continuing to improve our understanding of weather- and climate-related impacts, and how they affect economic activities, provides critical information to help communities better prepare and respond.

Over the past couple of decades, California scientists and communities have become increasingly interested in atmospheric rivers (ARs). AR events produce extreme rainfall and can abruptly end droughts, impacting both the physical environment and communities. These phenomena are essential for water supply and delivery, but are also a source of hazardous flooding conditions. Raising societal awareness of ARs—and improving our analysis, modelling, and prediction of them— offers an opportunity to integrate understanding of weather and climate into short- and long-term planning in the Western U.S.


This story map cascade creates an immersive experience and showcases the efforts and investments of NOAA Research in understanding and forecasting ARs. A case study is used to illustrate the complexities of extreme event impacts (floods from ARs, droughts, and frosts) for water resource management in Sonoma County, California.

View the story map: 
Atmospheric Rivers: Weather, Climate, & Societal Interactions

Photo Source:
Left: Satellite image of atmospheric river off the coast of California (NOAA). Top right: Image of Russian River flooding in California (FEMA). Bottom Right: Vineyard management consultant tests irrigation methods in Sonoma County (NOAA). 




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Americans’ health, security and economic wellbeing are tied to climate and weather. Every day, we see communities grappling with environmental challenges due to unusual or extreme events related to climate and weather. In 2017, the United States experienced a record-tying 16 climate- and weather-related disasters where overall costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. Combined, these events claimed 362 lives, and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted, costing more than $306 billion. Businesses, policy leaders, resource managers and citizens are increasingly asking for information to help them address such challenges.