A Pineapple Express deluges California with wind and rain while abundant snowfall accumulates throughout the upper Colorado River Basin.

Over the last several weeks, a series of atmospheric rivers have battered California. These storms ultimately reach the high country, bringing much-needed snow to mountain peaks. 

Like a river moving water over land, these long, flowing streams of water vapor are transported by atmospheric winds. An important component of the global water cycle, they are typically between 250 and 375 miles wide and more than 1,000 miles long. “Pineapple Express is a specific type of atmospheric river—one that builds up in the Pacific near Hawaii.

These systems of concentrated moisture typically form over tropical regions, where warm temperatures cause ocean water to evaporate and rise into the atmosphere. As the water vapor blows over land, it rises and cools, turning into beneficial rain or snow. Just a few atmospheric rivers each year can contribute up to half of the annual precipitation along the coast.

Because atmospheric rivers can be slow-moving, they can cause heavy flooding and mudslides when stalled over vulnerable watersheds, as is playing out in California this month. On average, these systems transport about 27 times the amount of water flowing through the Mississippi River (Ralph et. al. 2017). However, not all atmospheric rivers cause damage; most are weak and welcome. In fact, they are credited for ending up to 40% of California’s droughts between 1950 and 2010. Whether as snow or rain, these systems are an essential contribution of fresh water.

New year, new goals, right?

We love the fresh feeling a new year can bring. While we believe in being grateful for each day we have, we also understand the importance of goal setting and the sense of accomplishment when achieved. 

Our corporate partnerships manager, Amy, has a lot of goals for 2023. And we mean, a lot. Here are just a few off her long list:

  • Read 23 books
  • Be more active while good health is present
  • Travel to a new place

And, because she’s a river conservation advocate she’s also focused on buying a water-saving toilet, watering plants with vegetable-steamed water (cooled, of course), and planting native vegetation in her yard.

Our executive director, Ann, took her goals in a different direction. She’s enjoying a 23-day yoga challenge and chose the word “enjoy” as her year-long theme versus a long list. She plans to enjoy biking, skiing, and of course recreating on the rivers across the West

Like Amy,  she continues a focus on native plantings. This Native Plants Finder is a great tool.