EarthWatch: Atmospheric Rivers Over Australia

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Two atmospheric rivers hit Australia’s east and west coasts with severe rains on the same day. 

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory:  
  • NASA Earth Observatory image by NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using VIIRS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview and the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership 
  • Image of the Day story by Adam Voiland: 
  • Adaptation to ViewSpace by Claire Blome, Margaret W. Carruthers, and Dani Player
  • Music from Music for Nonprofits 

Text, Earth Watch Exploring the Blue Planet by Satellite. The Earth's blue surface from outer space.
Satellite image, a reddish Australia partially covered in swirls of clouds.
Text, Atmospheric Rivers over Australia.
In August, two vast bands of clouds known as atmospheric rivers stretched from the eastern Indian Ocean to Australia. August 10th, 2020.
These atmospheric rivers channeled streams of moisture and delivered intense rains to both sides of the continent.
Labels appear on image. Text, one atmospheric river delivered more than 6 inches of rain in less than 24 hours to Western Australia.
That region typically receives less than 1 inch of rain throughout August.
Moisture transporting atmospheric rivers occur all over the world and regularly hit Australia, but it is rare for two to hit at once.
The same type of event is known as the Pineapple Express in the United States, because it brings moisture from the tropical Pacific near Hawaii to the US West Coast.
A recent analysis of satellite data suggests that the frequency of atmospheric rivers could be increasing as global climate changes.
Earth Observatory. Visible infrared imaging radiometer suite, Suomi NPP satellite.
To learn more, go to earth observatory dot nasa dot gov.