California weather tracker: Where are extreme storms headed?

A parade of extreme storms is swamping California with heavy rain causing dangerous conditions including flash flooding and mudslides across the state.

At least 14 people have been killed and a search was called off for a five-year-old boy who was swept away in raging floodwaters as some areas received more than a foot of rain.

Heavy rain, snow, and strong winds are forecast to impact California and western Nevada through Tuesday night, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported, as the latest in a series of powerful atmospheric rivers swept the region.

The barrage of severe conditions will persist on Tuesday across central and southern California as the system slowly shifts south.

The next severe front will impact northern California and the Pacific Northwest from Wednesday.

It comes after days of heavy rain which left land waterlogged, adding to the risk of mudslides particularly in the burn scars of wildfires where land is already destabilized. The heavy rain has also led to rapid water rises in rivers and streams across California and portions of far western Nevada.

The heaviest rain was concentrated southeast of the state capital of Sacramento in the northern area of the San Joaquin Valley.

Rainfall has been 400-600 per cent above average over the past few weeks in the Golden State. Total rainfall is expected to be three to seven inches in California from recent days of deluges alone.

Heavy snowfall was impacting higher elevations of the central and southern Sierra Nevada mountain range. Another 1-4 feet of snow will make travel conditions treacherous above 4,000 feet. Forecasters also warned that mountain communities faced increased avalanche risk due to the heavy snowfall, and damage to infrastructure.

California’s snowpack was more than 200 per cent of normal, Climate Nexus reported, tracking ahead of the 1982-83 record.

High wind warnings have also been forecast for coastal and southern California, and flood watches issued for much of the state’s coastline into the Sacramento valley.

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Thunderstorms capable of producing damaging winds and possibly a brief tornado may occur in parts of southern and central California but also southeast Nevada, northwest Arizona, and southwest Utah.

Winter storm warnings were put in place over mountain ranges from the Sierra Nevada and Klamath Ranges to portions of the central Rockies. Advisories over winter weather were issued for northern California, central Nevada, the Wasatch Mountains, and much of the central and northern Rockies.

An atmospheric river, or a “river in the sky”, is a band of water vapor that forms over the ocean and can be hundreds of miles wide. These weather phenomenon occur globally, but are common on the west coast where they drag moisture onshore from the Pacific creating up to half of annual rainfall.

The systems are expected to become more frequent and extreme due to the climate crisis. As the atmosphere continues to heat up, it becomes capable of holding more water and leads to more rainfall.