California Floods: Splash into 2023!

Devika Bhattacharjya

California started 2023 off with a splash! For the first time in many years, California was in the middle of a passing storm, which caused days of consecutive rain. A storm, called atmospheric rivers, has dumped high amounts of rain on California. Atmospheric rivers are parts of the atmosphere that look long and narrow. Their appearance gives them the name rivers in the sky! These atmospheric rivers carry most of the water vapor that is outside the tropics and then releases this water in the form of rain when it hits land. These rivers are not harmless, but they can cause intense flooding and mudslides. Along with casualties, the atmospheric rivers that passed through in the storm were beneficial to California.

For about a decade, California has experienced heavy droughts with little to no water fall. These floods of 2023 helped us come out of our time of gold and into one filled with greens. The days of heavy rain have helped filled the once-low reservoirs and have recharged groundwater supplies. Reservoirs are man-made lakes behind a dam that store clean water from rain or the flow of a river. A lot of water that we drink comes from reservoirs, which is called “surface water.” By refilling them, the water supply is adequate again. These floods also recharged groundwater supplies. Underground water supplies are stored in an aquifer. Aquifer recharge is water that moves from an “unsaturated zone” to a “saturated” one. In other words, a saturated zone is a zone between the ground surface and the “water table” of the groundwater. This is important because our water supplies mostly come from these sources. Additionally, the rain that falls on the mountains, freezes into large amounts of snow. We rely on this snow to flow down when our reservoirs need replenishing. All of these are common ways we get the water we are fortunate to have every day. In the desert of California, there is not much rainfall, but over the last month, over thirty trillion gallons of water have fallen during California’s atmospheric storms. This makes California one of the wettest places in the United States!

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