While several areas of British Columbia are already suffering through floods with landslides blocking roads and cutting off towns, an event of “atmospheric river” earlier this month did something unusual — it filled up a river that had dried up a century ago.
One of the worst-hit areas of flooding in this season was the Sumas area in Washington State, just about 80km east of Vancouver in Canada, where a major farmland responsible for half of the egg and dairy supplies to the city was impacted due to flooding.
The farmland has been converted into a lake, which, experts say, was how it was a hundred years ago.
“One hundred years ago, there was a Sumas lake. Then they pumped the water out to make good farmland. It has been farmland for the last 100 years, and now it’s a lake again,” Johnson Zhong, a meteorologist for Environment Canada told CNN.
Atmospheric river is a concentrated, long, flowing strip of deep atmospheric moisture extending over the Pacific and into the US and Canada’s northwest. The phenomenon occurs in the month of November is both the US and Canada.
While the heavy rains brought in by atmospheric rivers is normal, this year it has been far more intense with back-to-back weather events, without any gap for drying. Experts believe this is an impact of climate change.
It isn’t the only place heavy rains have altered this season. Towns that rarely received rainfall were submerged this year, forcing evacuations.
Experts say the combination of snowmelt and rain have caused more damage to cities.
Western Canada has been facing extreme weather events for a large part of 2021 with heat waves, wildfires and heavy flooding causing significant damages.
The phenomenon of atmospheric river could also have been intensified due to climate change, according to meteorologists.
“Warmer atmospheric temperatures, in general, will mean the freezing levels are higher than they’ve been in the past,” Marty Ralph, director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said.
“But while storms vary, even without climate change and some can be extra warm, just by natural situation, it’s clear the background warming should increase the [freezing] levels,” Mr Ralph added.
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