Tahoe in the News

Too much of a good thing: Damaging atmospheric rivers likely to increase flood risk

Mariana Webb, Adrian Harpold, and Christine Albano, Tahoe Science Advisory Council | Tahoe Daily Tribune
April 16, 2023

Winter in the Truckee River Watershed can be a picturesque wonderland of snow-capped peaks and snow sports. However, it is also a season of heightened flood risk that we expect to increase as our community continues to feel the impacts of climate change.

The primary ingredients for flooding in the region are ‘atmospheric rivers.’ These long, narrow corridors of water vapor in the atmosphere carry moisture from the tropical Pacific Ocean to the mid-latitudes, home to Tahoe and the Truckee River Watershed. On average, a single atmospheric river transports the equivalent of 7-15 Mississippi Rivers worth of water.

While we rely on atmospheric rivers to fill Lake Tahoe and the six downstream reservoirs, flooding can occur when we receive too much water too quickly. Throughout history, all the largest peak flows on the Truckee River have been associated with atmospheric rivers…

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