California SB 758 - Atmospheric Rivers: Research, Mitigation, and Climate Forecasting Program

California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 758 into law in October 2015, establishing the Atmospheric Rivers: Research, Mitigation, and Climate Forecasting Program in the Department of Water Resources (DWR). Led by DWR and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego (UCSD) the research aims to better manage water supply by expanding climate and weather research focused on the causes of drought and flood.  The legislation supports research in climate forecasting and the causes and impacts that climate change has on atmospheric rivers, to operate reservoirs in a manner that improves flood protection in the state, and to reoperate flood control and water storage facilities to capture water generated by atmospheric rivers.

Atmospheric rivers are focused channels of moisture in the atmosphere, about 200 miles wide, that are responsible for most of the movement of water vapor outside the tropics - and are especially effective in producing precipitation in California, according to UCSD.  When one hits California it can produce heavy rain and snow, and can potentially deliver nearly half of the state’s water supply in relatively few strong storms annually.

According to the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) - who has worked closely with Scripps scientists for several years to better understand atmospheric rivers - a pilot project at Lake Mendocino suggests that better atmospheric rivers forecasting and reservoir re-operation could increase available water supply from the lake by 10 to 20 percent in many years. 

Publication Date: October 9, 2015

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