Storm clouds hang over Walton Lighthouse on Thursday in Santa Cruz The first of two back-to-back atmospheric rivers drenched California on Thursday

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Daniel Swain for Washington Post — El Niño and climate change are supercharging incoming storm, SoCal’s biggest this winter

UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain discusses the incoming storm for the Washington Post, sharing how climate change and El Niño are supercharging the atmospheric river, making it potentially more damaging and life-threatening for Southern California.

“As ocean temperatures warm, and as atmospheric temperatures warm, those rates of evaporation of water vapor into the lower atmosphere are going to increase quite quickly,” Swain said, pointing out that a few degrees of warming in nearshore and offshore water temperatures result in more moisture in the lower atmosphere, enhancing the storm’s intensity.

Swain attributes the warm ocean waters to a combination of El Niño and global warming, emphasizing the significant role of climate change in the long-term trend. Swain suggests that the repeated occurrence of intense storms with downpours in California may provide insights into what the state’s future winters could look like in a warming climate.