Despite being less intense and mostly contained to the Northwest, Wednesday’s atmospheric river offered little relief for the state already battered by record rainfall, gale-force winds, and devastating floods. At least 17 people have lost their lives since the start of the year, while millions remain under evacuation orders and severe weather warnings.

Northern California was hit by the seventh consecutive atmospheric river since Christmas on Wednesday. While this deluge was less intensive than previous ones, meteorologists have warned that a more powerful storm is on the way and is expected to hit most of the state this weekend.

Gale-force winds have downed power lines, leaving more than 160,000 people without electricity. Authorities have been working incessantly to restore power but as of the early hours of Thursday, more than 45,000 homes and businesses were still without electricity, according to data from

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) describes an atmospheric river as a “relatively long, narrow region in the atmosphere” akin to rivers in the sky that can carry “up to 15 times the volume of the Mississippi River.” When they make landfall, dumping extraordinary amounts of rain, they often result in floods and mudslides.

According to a 2018 study, climate change will cause atmospheric rivers to become 25% longer and 25% wider and thus carry more water and thus become more calamitous.

atmospheric river; california floods

Image by NOAA

Since December 26, several areas in central California received over half their average annual rainfall. In just 16 days, California averaged 8.61 inches (21.9 cm) of precipitation, while the San Francisco-Oakland metropolitan area averaged 13.34 inches (33.9 cm), the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Prediction Center said on Wednesday. 

atmospheric river; california floods; california rainfall

Image by NWS Bay Area/Twitter

Since the start of the year, the bundle of atmospheric rivers has killed at least 17 people and caused widespread flooding, forcing authorities to issue evacuation orders for millions of Californians. 

Featured image by Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

You might also like: US Extreme Weather Caused 18 Climate Disasters and Damages for $165bn Last Year