In early February, California experienced back-to-back storms that brought heavy rain due to the presence of an atmospheric river known as the “pineapple express”.
Atmospheric rivers are elongated and slim pathways of incredibly damp air that move through the sky, carrying significant quantities of water vapor that eventually precipitate as intense rainfall or snow. The pineapple express is a well-known, cyclical atmospheric river that originates near the Hawaiian Islands and moves northeast towards the Pacific coastline of North America.
Following the initial storm on January 31st and February 1st, a second storm arrived between February 4th and 6th, causing continuous heavy rainfall throughout California and accumulating snow in the mountains.
The region spanning from Santa Barbara to San Diego experienced significant impacts, as multiple locations broke previous records for rainfall in either the specific date or month. In Downtown Los Angeles, a total of 10.57 inches of rain had been recorded as of February 7, almost triple the average amount for February and accounting for 74% of the usual yearly precipitation.
A number of counties declared a state of emergency due to extensive flash flooding. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, buildings and cars were swept away by mudslides in the hilly areas, while Santa Barbara county experienced coastal cliffs collapsing and a portion of a major road being washed away in the Mojave desert. Additionally, there were powerful winds with gusts exceeding 100mph in mountainous and coastal regions.
Over the weekend, Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency due to a powerful storm that brought heavy snowfall to the province, with some areas receiving up to a foot of snow. Cape Breton Island, specifically the town of Sydney, was hit the hardest with 40.6 inches recorded at its airport and nearly 60 inches reported in nearby areas.
This week, the Copernicus Climate Change Service of the EU stated that the average air temperature of the Earth for the period from February 2023 to January 2024 was 1.52C higher than pre-industrial levels. This marks the first time that global warming has exceeded the 1.5C threshold for an entire year.
In 2015, global leaders made a commitment to restrict temperature rise to 1.5C. This pledge pertains to ongoing alterations, so surpassing 1.5C in a single year does not signify failure, but it does increase the risk of failure.
The average temperature of the Earth’s sea surface has recently reached a new record high of 21.05C on Saturday, surpassing the previous record of 21.02C in August 2023.