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San Diego County Students Discover Practical Water Solutions

On April 28, the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors showcased this year’s group of award winners from the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair. The Water Authority has judged water-related projects in the fair for several decades as part of an effort to support STEM education in the region and inspire young people to pursue careers in the water industry.

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San Diego County Students Discover Practical Water Solutions

On April 28, the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors showcased this year’s group of award winners from the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair. The Water Authority has judged water-related projects in the fair for several decades as part of an effort to support STEM education in the region and inspire young people to pursue careers in the water industry.

Each year, the fair showcases hundreds of innovative projects created by middle and school students. The water-related projects often aim to solve a variety of global water issues.

High school students find practical solutions for global water issues

In the senior division, Issa Alwazir from Bright Horizon Academy in San Diego designed and built a water filter that can produce drinkable water using natural resources that are found in developing nations.

Fahad Majidi, also from Bright Horizon Academy, won second place in the senior division with a system for filtering greywater for residential use. Fahad tested his device on water in his home and is building a larger scale version for next year.

William Maywood from Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista earned third place in the senior division. William tested Otay Lakes Reservoir’s water quality to determine its probability for eutrophication, which is when the richness of the nutrients in a body of water reaches increased or excessive levels.

Middle school students understand importance of clean, reliable water

In the junior division, Alana Bridges from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in San Diego won first place by testing several methods of water purification, including solar disinfection, bleach and a natural filter, to determine which produced the purest water.

In second place, Paddy Ward from St. Didacus Parish School in San Diego used PVC pipes to design and build a drip irrigation system that could scale for agricultural use.

Cassidy Chan and Jessica Talavera from St. Michael’s School in Poway teamed up to win third place in the junior division. Their project was focused on testing different methods of desalinating water to determine which was most effective.

Through the K-12 education program and events like the Science and Engineering Fair, the Water Authority encourages students throughout the region to become next generation of water industry professionals.

Opinion: I’m a Scientist in California. Drought is Worse Than We Thought.

This past week, I joined teams of other scientists gathering the most important measurements of the Sierra Nevada snowpack from over 265 sites throughout the state. Typically, this measurement marks the transition from snow accumulation season to the melt season and contains the most snow of any measurement throughout the year. The 2022 results, however, confirmed what those of us monitoring the state’s drought had feared: California’s snowpack is now at 39 percent of its average, or 23 percent lower than at the same point last year.

Atmospheric River Storm Observations Take Flight Over Pacific Ocean

Research on atmospheric rivers takes flight as UC San Diego’s Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes taps “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft for specialized scientific missions.

The aircraft will fly for a 13-week period (that began January 5) to glean critical data for improving forecasts of atmospheric river storms over the Pacific Ocean. Those storms, or “AR’s,” provide up to half of the U.S. West Coast’s annual precipitation and a majority of the flooding.

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Atmospheric River Storm Observations Take Flight Over Pacific Ocean

Research on atmospheric rivers takes flight as UC San Diego’s Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes taps “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft for specialized scientific missions.

The aircraft will fly for a 13-week period (that began January 5) to glean critical data for improving forecasts of atmospheric river storms over the Pacific Ocean. Those storms, or “AR’s,” provide up to half of the U.S. West Coast’s annual precipitation and a majority of the flooding.

The flights are part of the Atmospheric River Reconnaissance program led by UC San Diego’s Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (at Scripps Institution of Oceanography) with support from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and California Department of Water Resources. The AR Recon program works in coordination with NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and the U.S. Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters” to carry out data-collecting missions within these storms.

Two Air Force Reserve WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft are on standby to fly out of Mather Air Force Base near Sacramento, when atmospheric rivers approach the West Coast.  NOAA will station its Gulfstream IV-SP jet in Hawaii during this year’s operations.

Dropsonde instruments will be deployed from these aircraft over specialized transects over atmospheric rivers, transmitting critical data on the vertical profile of water vapor, wind, and temperature carried in fast-moving, low-altitude airstreams that form the atmospheric river.

The San Diego County Water Authority is a partner with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, at UC San Diego, as part of the effort to better predict atmospheric rivers and improve water management before, during, and after those seasonal storms. The partnership started in 2020.

AR Forecasting and Water Supply

An average atmospheric river carries 25 times the water equivalent of the Mississippi River in the form of vapor instead of liquid. These storms can cover a swath about 500 miles wide while extending thousands of miles in length. They pack winds ranging from more than 50 miles an hour to hurricane force.

“Science has discovered that the leading source of error in predicting when and where an atmospheric river will strike the U.S. West Coast, and how much precipitation it will create, is the position and structure of the atmospheric river itself offshore, prior to landfall,” said Scripps research meteorologist and CW3E Director F. Martin Ralph. “Obtaining accurate environmental measurements in and near the atmospheric river offshore using these aircraft and drifting ocean buoys has a significant impact on forecast accuracy. AR Recon not only fills in many data gaps over the Pacific Ocean for prediction, it supports improved scientific understanding that over time improves forecasts as well. These improvements are vital for water managers and public safety.”

Ralph leads AR Recon 2022, working closely with Vijay Tallapragada, who heads modeling efforts for the National Weather Service’s Global Forecast System (GFS); and Jim Doyle, who leads the Naval Research Laboratory’s Coupled Ocean/Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System.

California drought cycles and AR’s

Atmospheric rivers have helped break more than 40% of California’s droughts throughout recorded history. They also generate many of California’s most extreme precipitation events, driving 90% of California’s heaviest rains in bursts lasting one to three days. They are also responsible for as much as $1 billion a year in flood damages in western states.

California’s climate variability

Although meteorologists can see atmospheric rivers forming as much as eight days in advance, landfall forecasts can be hundreds of miles off target. AR Recon data improves forecasts of their intensity, allowing forecasters to more precisely determine potential benefits or hazards of atmospheric rivers. Situationally, they can refill reservoirs or bring flooding and debris flows. Real-time data will also be  incorporated into AR scale rankings, which can serve as a predictive indicator of the storm’s damage or benefit.

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“AR Recon has been a key monitoring element of the State’s Atmospheric River Research Program and is a great example of collaborative engagements that lead to improvements in precipitation prediction, providing multiple benefits to water managers seeking to understand climate change-caused weather extremes,” said Michael Anderson, state climatologist with the California Department of Water Resources.

As California alternates between extremes of drought and flood, accurate forecasts are increasingly vital to water managers. A collaborative program called Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO) uses modern forecasting methods to give reservoir operators better decision-making tools to optimize water resources. FIRO is developing the capability for these advanced forecasts to help water managers decide whether to retain water if no additional storms are forecast or release it to mitigate the risk of flooding.

Atmospheric river research helps forecasting, water management

“Research on atmospheric rivers from the Atmospheric River Reconnaissance program has helped us better predict, mitigate and optimize these weather events in California,” said U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). “Applying this data through Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations means better flood protection and improved water storage to help lessen the effects of drought.”

“Water managers within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have long maintained that they can do a better job of making water management decisions if weather forecasts were better – i.e. more accurate at longer lead times,” said Cary Talbot, chief of the Flood and Storm Protection Division at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center. “The AR Recon program, combined with the increased flexibility afforded by the FIRO program, is making better water management a reality in California and across the West because the forecasts are improving in both accuracy and lead time.”

AR Recon observations began in 2016. This year the mission window will expand to 13 weeks, three weeks longer than last year.

In addition to using dropsondes, the Air Force Reserves and ships of opportunity deployed 50 additional drifting buoys in key locations throughout the northeast Pacific this season, joining 48 buoys active from previous seasons. These buoys provide vital sea-level pressure, water temperature and wave measurements from a region lacking data needed for numerical weather predictions and climate studies. The buoy deployments were completed in partnership with the Scripps-based, NOAA-funded Global Drifter Program (GDP), the California Department of Water Resources, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Data gathering using GPS signals

Air Force Reserve aircraft will also be equipped with what are known as airborne radio occultation capabilities. Proven on NOAA’s Gulfstream IV-SP platform in previous seasons, the airborne radio occultation technique uses GPS signals to detect variations in atmospheric properties and provide critical moisture and temperature profiles in the larger environment surrounding the aircraft, complementing the dropsondes.

Neither satellites nor other conventional observation methods can detect conditions captured from buoys and dropsondes. In offshore areas from the ground to a height of several miles, AR Recon dropsonde data account for most temperature and humidity observations and almost half of the wind observations. These data plug a serious gap in the standard network of weather observations impacting the U.S. mainland.

Weather officers and navigators of the U.S. Air Force Reserves will embed at Scripps Oceanography for flight planning this season, assisted by a team from NOAA’s Environmental Modeling Center and flight directors from NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center. About 50 people aid flight planning throughout the season, including approximately 20 from Scripps Oceanography and up to 15 from the Air Force Reserves.

The AR Recon Program has grown from a demonstration phase in 2016 to an operational requirement in 2019 and is now included in the federal National Winter Season Operational Plan. It has expanded from flying three storm Intense Observation Periods in 2016 to 30 such periods in 2021, with more than 117 aircraft missions flown and data from more than 3,000 dropsondes assimilated in real-time operations.

AR Recon data used for global weather models

Leading global weather models at NOAA and the National Weather Service, the U.S. Navy, and European agencies and others incorporate AR Recon data into their forecasts. In the northeast Pacific, AR Recon observations have improved precipitation forecasts over the western United States. They also provide a more accurate analysis of upstream atmospheric conditions before potential high-impact weather events develop over the central and eastern parts of the country.

“Real-time assimilation of AR Recon observations have made a significant impact on NOAA’s operational GFS, particularly for the precipitation forecasts along the west coast of the United States, with forecast improvements exceeding 20-30 percent in areas where heavy precipitation occurs due to landfalling atmospheric rivers,” said Vijay Tallapragada, Chief of Modeling and Data Assimilation Branch at NOAA’s Environmental Modeling Center.

The Research and Operations partnership established through the AR Recon Program has enabled scientists from NOAA working closely with CW3E and the Navy in developing advanced sampling strategies for mission planning and targeted collection of observations critical for improving the analysis and forecasts. The AR Recon observations also have notably improved key aspects of NOAA’s GFS. Wind forecasts alone have improved by 17% after including AR Recon data. The Navy has found that AR Recon data improves forecasts as much as all the data collected from balloon-borne radiosondes in North America.

The recent report from NOAA’s Science Advisory Board on Priorities for Weather Research explicitly recommended the implementation of a multi-phase program to improve atmospheric river forecasting to better anticipate and mitigate extreme precipitation swings and their cascading impacts.

In 2022, the AR Recon Program will include, for the first time, real-time data collection and feedback that can instantly impact experiments being carried out with NOAA’s GFS. Making this possible are the computational resources provided by San Diego Supercomputer Center’s “COMET” to facilitate documenting the forecast improvements and support mission planning.

(Editor’s Note: Follow the work of Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientists at the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes on Twitter at @CW3E_Scripps, the U.S. Air Force Reserves Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at @53rdWRS, and NOAA Aircraft Operations Center at @NOAA_HurrHunter.)

Scripps, CW3E and Yuba Water Agency Launched Weather Balloons During Atmospheric River

On Sunday morning, during the atmospheric river event in Northern California, scientists from the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E) at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego and their partners at Yuba Water Agency launched weather balloons to gather data on the AR and its impacts on reservoirs.

Atmospheric River events in Water Year 2021

(Editor’s Note: The Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, or CW3E, at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, released its report October 11 on atmospheric rivers during Water Year 2021.

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Distribution of Landfalling Atmospheric Rivers over the U.S. West Coast During Water Year 2021: End of Water Year Summary. Graphic: Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes

The San Diego County Water Authority partnered with the Scripps Institution of OceanographyCenter for Western Weather and Water Extremes, at UC San Diego in 2020 to better predict atmospheric rivers and improve water management before, during, and after those seasonal storms. The Center and its partners share best practices in forecast-informed reservoir operations, increased research around atmospheric rivers and droughts, and develop strategies for mitigating flood risk and increasing water supply reliability.)

Q&A: La Niña’s Back and It’s Not Good for Parts of Dry West

For the second straight year, the world heads into a new La Niña weather event. This would tend to dry out parts of an already parched and fiery American West and boost an already busy Atlantic hurricane season.

Just five months after the end of a La Niña that started in September 2020, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a new cooling of the Pacific is underway.

 

Atmospheric Rivers Left California Mostly Dry in Water Year 2021

The Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, or CW3E, at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, released its report October 11 on atmospheric rivers during Water Year 2021.

The report, “Distribution of Landfalling Atmospheric Rivers over the U.S. West Coast During Water Year 2021: End of Water Year Summary” shows that more atmospheric rivers landed on the U.S. West Coast in Water Year 2021 than in Water Year 2020. But the majority of those storms reached the Pacific Northwest, not California, where drought conditions have impacted water supply.

Atmospheric Rivers Are Stable For Now — But Change Is On The Way

Yale researchers are charting the course of mighty “rivers” in the sky that are holding steady in the face of climate change — for now.

In future decades, however, climate-induced changes to these atmospheric rivers could drastically increase extreme precipitation events in some parts of the world, they report in a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Atmospheric rivers — long, winding filaments of intense water vapor — account for as much as 90% of the moisture sent toward the North and South poles.

UCLA Study: Climate Change Causing ‘Extreme’ Rain and Snowfall Across Globe

A UCLA study shows that abnormally heavy rain and snowfall events since as early as the 1980s are intensifying globally due to human-driven climate change, researchers said Tuesday.

“These findings further elevate the urgency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent even larger impacts down the road,” said senior author Alex Hall, director of the UCLA Center for Climate Science, which is a part of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “We can now say that extreme precipitation is increasing globally due to human-induced climate change.”