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Atmospheric Rivers Are Back. That’s Not a Bad Thing.

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Remember atmospheric rivers?

Earlier this year, they hit California’s collective consciousness in a big way, as the state reeled from the catastrophic flooding, mudslides and pounding rain they brought with them.

This week, much to the dismay of anyone eyeing a weekend outdoors, atmospheric rivers are back and forecast to pour cold water (and snow) on the Bay Area and other parts of California.

As Daniel Swain, a climate researcher and the author of the Weather West blog, put it: “Enjoy the upcoming 10 days of ‘Mayuary.’”

In March, I wrote about how Mr. Swain and other experts predict that such storms are part of increasingly extreme, climate change-driven weather whiplash.

These swings — between heavy rain and raging wildfires — are forcing policymakers and residents to rethink their relationship with the weather.

That’s where researchers at U.C. San Diego hope to come in with a universitywide initiative aimed at producing interdisciplinary environmental research with practical applications.

In other words, as Margaret Leinen, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told me last month: The question has become, “How do we start moving beyond understanding that the climate is changing to understanding what to do about it?”

To that end, Marty Ralph, the director of the university’s Center for Western Weather and Extremes, said he and his team had come up with a scale for categorizing atmospheric river storms — like the ones meteorologists use for hurricanes or tornadoes.

“Hurricanes aren’t a deal on the West Coast, so that doesn’t help us,” he told me. “This is the type of storm that really affects people day-to-day and has a lot of implications for water.”

Mr. Ralph, who had been studying atmospheric rivers for years, said he realized that forecasters in California didn’t have very specific ways of describing storms.

He recalled preparing to speak at a conference in San Francisco and catching the weather on TV.

“It was like a dark gray rainy symbol,” he said, when he happened to know a major atmospheric river was projected to hit in a few days. Nothing indicated how severe the storm could be.

With a better idea of how much water is actually on the way, Mr. Ralph said, water managers are better able to capture the rain for drier periods and prevent flooding in areas that are vulnerable.

This week and next, he said, the atmospheric rivers are projected to be Category 1 and Category 2, which means they’ll be mostly beneficial. (Though there is always some hazard involved when Californians drive in the rain.)

But the rare wet spell, Mr. Ralph said, “will consume part of the calendar that would otherwise be fire season.”

However, he added, “the dark side of that is there will be more fuel on the ground in the fall.”

(We often link to sites that limit access for nonsubscribers. We appreciate your reading Times coverage, but we also encourage you to support local news if you can.)

• From approving oil pipelines to withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, President Trump touted his administration’s rollbacks of Obama-era environmental policies. [The New York Times]

San Francisco became the first major American city to ban the use of facial recognition software by the police or other agencies. While the technology has been useful in identifying some suspects, civil liberties advocates are concerned that the risks of abuse outweigh the benefits. [The New York Times]

A former U.S.C. soccer coach has agreed to plead guilty in the sweeping college admissions fraud case. That could be bad news for Lori Loughlin, who has denied wrongdoing. [The Associated Press]

• In response to worries that its equipment could spark more wildfires, Pacific Gas & Electric has a plan to cut power on high-wind days. But that means residents who need it could be going without power. [Bloomberg]

How much are your neighbors paying in state taxes? Get a look at the average tabs for residents by ZIP code. [CALmatters]

The National Labor Relations Board said that Uber drivers are contractors not employees. The move hands a victory to Uber and other so-called gig economy companies, and deals a blow to drivers who were pushing for better pay and working conditions. [The New York Times]

• After Stanford reversed a decision to cut funding for its university press for a year, a former director of the press wrote that its current woes come as part of a steady downward financial spiral over decades — but that supporting the press or paying for other things is a false choice. [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

• Police officers have identified the man they say beat a 63-year-old woman to death with an electric scooter in North Long Beach. The man, Amad Rashad Redding, was booked on suspicion of murder. The authorities said they hadn’t determined a possible motive for the attack. [The Press-Telegram]

• A day after the Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic violence, the league placed him on administrative leave. Manager Dave Roberts said the team planned to “let the process run its course.” [The New York Times]

Joe Pavelski, the captain of the San Jose Sharks, is the team’s True North. The team needs him — whether he’s on the ice or not. Although, of course that’s where they’d prefer him, as the Sharks continue in the Western Conference finals against the St. Louis Blues tonight. [The New York Times]

• The new land at Disneyland, “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge,” has been generating buzz for months. Demand to visit is so high that you’ll need reservations to get in for the first month. But the attraction is still part of a war with Southern California’s other theme parks. [The Orange County Register]

Early this year, I talked to Samin Nosrat, the chef, New York Times Magazine columnist and creator of the Netflix series “Salt Fat Acid Heat,” about how living in California — as a kid in San Diego, then as a student in Berkeley — has informed her work.

She talked about loving California’s Mexican food and becoming immersed in the slow, sustainable food community at Chez Panisse.

This week, she put together a list of 10 essential Persian recipes, culled in part from her memories and from interviews with her mother, as well as other Iranian and Iranian-American cooks.

The result is a delicious tribute to a childhood spent as what she described as an “Iranian eater,” where tastes of her parents’ homeland were available in the Southland — if you knew where to look.

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.



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