California: Let’s Go Get Hosed

By Tom Yulsman | February 7, 2014 12:45 pm

Northern California and the Pacific Northwest are about to get hosed by a veritable gusher of atmospheric moisture, promising a modicum of relief to a region suffering from profound drought.

You can see the river of moisture, sometimes called the “Pineapple Express,” in the animation above from the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies. It shows total precipitable water, the amount of water vapor from Earth’s surface to the top of the atmosphere, as measured by satellites from Tuesday through today. Parts of California have already been affected, but much more is on the way.

Here’s another view of what’s been heading toward the West Coast — the latest water vapor imagery from the GOES-West weather satellite:

water vapor GOES hosed

GOES weather satellite image from 2/7/14 showing California getting hosed by a river of water vapor. (Source: NOAA)

To my eye, it looks like the region is about to get hosed.

And the forecast from the National Weather Service concurs:

Precipitation forecast hosed

The forecast for total precipitation in inches during the next three days. (Source: National Weather Service)

Over the next three days, total accumulation of precipitation could reach as high as 10 inches in parts of the Sierra Nevada.

This is obviously great news for California, which is currently in the midst of one of the worst droughts in 500 years. But don’t believe what you may be reading in some media outlets, such as the Daily Beast, which today ran this headline: “The Pineapple Express to Save NorCal.”

Embarrassingly shoddy journalism there. Had they done the least bit of actual reporting they would have seen that the lack of precipitation has been so profound that ending it will require a whole lot more moisture than what’s coming this weekend:

According to Jeff Masters, chief meteorologist for, “the state is in such a deep precipitation hole that it needs at least six more events like this over the next two months to pull them out of drought.” Masters also points out that upwards of three feet of snow is predicted to fall in the Sierra Mountains, “though it appears much of the precipitation will fall as rain, reducing the benefit of the moisture during the coming summer months (when Sierra snow melt provides an important source of water).”

Let’s hope that the gusher keeps flowing and that six more events do materialize over the next couple of months.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Earth Science, select, Top Posts, Weather
  • Uncle Al

    one of the worst droughts in 500 years.” There are no imposed limitations on watering lawns in Southern California, which is near desert 8/12 months. I am among 268 homes with a Housing Association that irrigates front yards to swamps three times.week. We put in an Arizona-style water-conserving garden with micro-ice plant not grass and flowering succulents not parking lot periphery. We have been in legal dispute for three years because out front yard is not “harmonious:” with self-styled “Levittown West.” Therefore,

    1) There is no California drought.
    2) There is no California water conservation.
    3) There is no enforcement of Official Truth about both.
    4) There is no justice.
    5) Let it all burn down to grey stubble.

  • Omar Mederew

    Isn’t the earth covered by 75% water and Cali is right next to water…then why is there a Drought???? If theres plenty of water



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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