After the rain at Griffith Observatory
After the rain at Griffith Observatory

"Atmospheric River" of Rain Heads for California

With storm after storm striking the Southern California coast this month and last, it almost feels as if last year's promised El Niño finally showed up.

This isn't an El Niño year, which is marked by warm water along the equatorial Pacific and possible mega-storms on the march. But this weekend we could see an El Niño-like pattern in which a traditional storm from the northwest picks up an "atmospheric river" of precipitation from the tropical Pacific.

The front "will take the form a moisture-laden and slow-moving atmospheric river," according to climate scientist Daniel Swain's California Weather Blog. There could be as many as two feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The National Weather Service is calling for a 20 percent chance of rain in L.A. Sunday with heavy rain likely for the morning commute Monday. We can expect a half-inch to an inch of rain Monday, says NWS weather specialist Stuart Seto.

"The commute is going to be terrible," he says. "People should be prepared. Watch for debris in the road."

This storm might have more hype than actual precipitation. In a forecast statement the National Weather Service called the front "nothing overtly special."

"Some rain will also expand southward into parts of Southern California, including the Los Angeles and San Diego areas by Monday afternoon," according to private forecaster AccuWeather. "However, unlike that of areas farther north, rainfall will be of rather short duration in most cases."

The high temperature in the L.A. basin could actually reach the low 70s Sunday before descending into the low to mid 50s as the storm starts to arrive early Monday, Seto says. Monday's highs — this is a warm storm — could reach the mid 60s.

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