Reporters Gaze Into an Atmospheric River From Above

Oregonians get a more extensive view of the weather we’ve endured in recent winters.

If Californians seem less inclined of late to move to Oregon, maybe Oregon’s weather can visit California.

For the past three weeks, much of the Golden State has been pounded by torrential rains, which have triggered devastating floods and storm damage blamed for the deaths of at least 19 people. The cause of the deluge: an “atmospheric river” flowing in from the Pacific Ocean.

That should be a familiar term to Portland readers. On at least six occasions over the past three years, an atmospheric river has rolled over this city. As the weather patterns shattered rainfall records, they sent a floating home bobbing down the Columbia River, closed the Eastbank Esplanade, and triggered landslides in the scorched Columbia River Gorge.

But California’s atmospheric river has drawn another natural phenomenon: New York Times reporters. The paper has devoted extensive coverage to the effects of climate change on California, paying particular attention to this winter’s storm damage.

The result of the Gray Lady’s mobilizing is that Oregonians get a more extensive view of the weather we’ve endured in recent winters (and summers, on occasion). This week, the Times sent a reporter into the sky to examine an atmospheric river from above.

“The mission: fly roughly 1,500 miles almost straight north, toward the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, before doubling back,” the story explains. “This would allow the plane to cross two separate sections of the atmospheric river’s moisture-laden core as it swept east. And flying at an altitude of 41,000 feet to 45,000 feet would let the plane sample both the storm itself and the jet stream, whose powerful winds help shape the system’s course. Total flight time: about eight hours.”

Reading time is more like 10 minutes, and it’s pretty interesting, especially if you’re staying inside tonight. After all, it’s raining.

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