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What is an atmospheric river? Powerful storm to drench California

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James Flachs
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California residents, brace yourselves: an atmospheric river could bring multiple inches of rain to central and southern parts of the state over the next few days.

Read on for a look at the meteorological phenomeonon -- and what to expect from the storm.

An atmospheric river is a huge plume of subtropical moisture.

“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,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says.

“When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they often release this water vapor in the form of rain or snow,” according to the agency.

They may also bring severe precipitation and destruction, though “most are weak systems that often provide beneficial rain or snow that is crucial to the water supply.”

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James Flachs
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