How California Got Its Dew Back

Watch the "Pineapple Express" make its way from Hawaii to the West Coast.

Last week, California saw something it hasn't seen for a shockingly long time: rain. And snow. The precipitation was not enough to end the drought that has, for the past three years, turned the Golden State into a toasty shade of brown ... but it was something.

The injection of moisture came courtesy of the "Pineapple Express," a jet of moist air flowing to California from Hawaii. Such an atmospheric river sent from the tropics is not always something to be celebrated: The system tends to bring heavy rainfall and fierce winds. And this particular Pineapple Express, true to form, brought flooding and wind damage along with it. But it also brought moisture! Some 4 to 8 inches of it! Which, given a drought that some are saying could be California's worst in 500 years, is something.

In the animation above, which accounts for data captured between February 7 and February 9, 2014, you can watch the Pineapple Express come into contact with California. The video features a compilation of visible and infrared images taken from NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental satellite. It presents a sweeping view of the little present Hawaii gave to California last week—a brief "reprieve" from the ongoing dryness. Here's to more such tropical gifts. As Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, told PhysOrg: "Our drought recovery in the West depends on the Pineapple connection."

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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