Fly me a river

An atmospheric one

Courtesy National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

We’re all used to the hurricane hunters out there flying into, well, hurricanes, to collect wind, temperature, pressure, and moisture data. The airplane shown above is the WC-130J which flies directly into these storms at 24,000-30,000 feet dropping what basically amounts to small computers (dropwindsondes) which sample the atmosphere as they fall to the ocean floor. That information is transmitted back to supercomputers to help create our hurricane forecasts.

The same goes for this plane, the NOAA’s G-4 which flies higher and around the storms sampling the atmosphere at heights from 40,000-45,000 feet:

courtesy NOAA

While you may think that during non-hurricane season these planes and their crews just sit around waiting on hurricanes, that would be far from the truth. They’ve been flying winter missions from Hawaii to Alaska for several years now and as California faces one storm after another they’ve been deployed to Sacramento where every day they’ve been out there tracking these atmospheric rivers of wind and rain. Morning meteorologist Anthony Yanez, who worked in Los Angeles for five years, offers an excellent explanation of atmospheric rivers in a video he put together right here. You really should watch this one!

Meteorologist Anthony Yanez explaining what these weather phenomena are all about!

Yesterday, I tracked the hurricane hunters’ mission as they flew into the current bomb cyclone moving into the West Coast where they found a max wind of 147 mph!

The Hurricane Hunters spent a good seven to eight hours sampling this storm's atmosphere

The bottom line goal here is to help forecasters keep everyone safe and you can read more about these winter storm explorations right here.

More coming!

Good thing they are deployed, too, because the forecast has several more strong storms moving in the next week. Here are the upper level wind forecasts which will carry those bomb cyclones their way and you can see the red areas, the strongest winds, just one after another:


Bottom line is more heavy rain and snow for the state and all the life-threatening problems that can go with that.

What about Lake Mead?

A lot of you have asked about the drought-stricken Lake Mead and just how this might be helping fill that reservoir. So far, there has been just a bit of improvement, but that is sure to change, especially in spring when the snowpack melts. From is the latest from the past year and you CAN see how the water has gone up from last July when the level was 1040′ and now is measured at 1045′.

Lake Mead Water Levels the past year courtesy David Fordham (David Fordham

That site also includes webcams, snowpacks and other river information, so check it out!


Email me with questions, ideas and comments!

About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with four decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Two-time Emmy award winning meteorologist and recipient of the 2022 American Meteorological Society’s award for Excellence in Science Reporting by a Broadcast Meteorologist.