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atmospheric river

A car sits partially submerged on a flooded road during a rain storm in Long Beach, Calif., on Thursday. David Swanson/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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David Swanson/AFP via Getty Images

An aerial view shows a man navigating floodwaters with his bicycle in the unincorporated community of Pajaro in California on March 11. Residents were forced to evacuate in the middle of the night after an atmospheric river surge broke the Pajaro Levee and sent flood waters flowing into the community. Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Members of the California Army National Guard Joint Task Force Rattlesnake shovel snow from a rooftop after a series of winter storms dropped more than 100 inches of snow in the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California on March 8, 2023 in Crestline, California. Mario Tama/Getty Images hide caption

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Mario Tama/Getty Images

A mid-latitude cyclone is helping to funnel wet air into an atmospheric river, pointed right at the California coast. NOAA/NESDIS/STAR GOES-18 hide caption

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NOAA/NESDIS/STAR GOES-18

A truck is driven through a flooded intersection of Salinas, Calif., on Tuesday. The first in a week of storms brought gusty winds, rain and snow to California on Tuesday, starting in the north and spreading southward. Nic Coury/AP hide caption

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Nic Coury/AP

What is an atmospheric river, responsible for the heavy rainfall on the West Coast?

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Caltrans maintenance supervisor Matt Martin walks by a landslide covering Highway 70 in the Dixie Fire zone Sunday in Plumas County, Calif. Heavy rains blanketing Northern California created slide and flood hazards in land scorched during last summer's wildfires. Noah Berger/AP hide caption

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Noah Berger/AP