Atmospheric River Prediction

The Problem

Atmospheric rivers that impact the West are typically only forecast 7-10 days in advance, leaving minimal time for planning and preparation.

What is an atmospheric river?

An atmospheric river is a weather feature that is a narrow band of water vapor that, when it makes landfall, is associated with extreme winds and rains, and can ultimately lead to landslides, floods, and other catastrophic events.


of the annual water supply of the West comes from just a few atmospheric river events

$1.5 billion

per year in flood damages in Western U.S. ($300M in CA alone)


The amount of water vapor a strong atmospheric river transports, in comparison with the average flow of liquid water at the mouth of the Mississippi River.


of California droughts are “busted” by landfalling atmospheric rivers

Our Solution

Develop strategies to forecast atmospheric rivers weeks in advance.

The large-scale atmospheric circulation impacts where and when atmospheric rivers make landfall. New techniques will leverage our understanding of how the tropical and extra-tropical circulations evolve to improve forecasts and extend lead times.

The Faculty Involved

Dr. Elizabeth Barnes
Assistant Professor, Department of Atmospheric Science
Dr. Eric Maloney
Professor, Department of Atmospheric Science

Credit: Cory Baggett

Develop New Techniques

Develop and test new techniques and improve weather forecast models to extend skillful atmospheric river forecasts to 3-4 weeks.

Save Lives

Prevent deaths and loss of property from catastrophic floods, winds and infrastructure failures.


Matt Carlyon
(970) 491-5000

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