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Science AMA Series: I’m Marty Ralph, research meteorologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. My research focuses on extreme weather events including atmospheric rivers. This winter, we’re flying Hurricane Hunter aircraft through storms. AMA!
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Corresponding Author:marty_ralph@thewinnower.com

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As director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, I lead a team of researchers focused on understanding the physical processes that create extremes in precipitation, ranging from flood to drought. We are also focused on advancing extreme weather monitoring, predictions, climate projections, and decision support tools. The core of my research is to better understand atmospheric rivers, bands of moisture in the sky that can carry more water (as vapor) in them than any terrestrial river in the world (as liquid). These bands can deliver as much as half of California’s water supply in a handful of precipitation events every year. This winter, I’m leading a field effort with the National Weather Service using NOAA’s Gulfstream IV and two Air Force WC-130J Super Hercules planes, manned by Air Force Hurricane Hunter crews, to study any atmospheric rivers that form over the Pacific Ocean and hit the West Coast. The planes will be stationed in Hawaii, Seattle, and Northern California, and when the conditions are right, we’ll fly through atmospheric rivers, dropping instrument-laden, parachute-tethered dropsondes across the width of the storms to collect data. Our ultimate goal is to provide research and information to the National Weather Service and California Department of Water Resources to help improve atmospheric river forecasts. The effort is related to a study exploring the potential of using atmospheric river forecasts in reservoir operations on Lake Mendocino in northern California to support water supply management, flood mitigation and recovery of endangered salmon, supporting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ask me anything about atmospheric rivers or other western US extreme weather and water events!