The weekend of July 19, 2015 saw record breaking rainfall in Southern California. So much rainfall that portions of Interstate 10 washed away with no estimate of when it will be re-opened. Remnants of Hurricane Delores hit the California coast and dumped billions of gallons of water onto land that has been in drought for a long time.
How much water was that? It’s hard to know precisely, and I’m sure NOAA has much more accurate estimates. But, let’s start with considering the square miles of the coastal counties of So. Cal.
San Luis Obisbo 3,616
Santa Barbara Co. 3,789
Ventura County 2,208
Los Angeles 4,752
Orange County 948
San Diego county 4,526
Total 19,839 square miles.
Portions of San Bernadino and Riverside Counties were also drenched, but it’s hard to pin down the square miles that were affected. Let’s just use the 6 coastal counties and assume that even more fell in those others.
Using this handy US Geological Survey rainfall calculator we input the number of square miles. To start with, one inch of rainfall for one square mile amounts to 17,378,560 gallons of water. Multiply that by 19,839 square miles, and you get 344,773,251,840 gallons of water. Some areas had as much as 4 inches of rainfall, while some coastal towns saw less than one inch. With that large a fluctuation in rainfall, we can only throw out some averages.
Multiplying the totals by 8 pounds per gallon of water and you get the rough figures below.
Average Rainfall Gallons Pounds of Water
1″ 344 Billion 2.76 Trillion
2″ 690 Billion 5.52 Trillion
3″ 1.034 Trillion 8.27 Trillion
Seems impossible, doesn’t it? However, the same USGS site has an article that explains how the lower 48 states of the US gets so much rainfall in a given year that if it fell all at once, would cover that entire area with 30″ of water, or
3,537,438 square miles for continugous states TIMES
17,378,560 gallons of water per 1″ per square mile TIMES
1,844,267,355,878,400, or 1.8 quadrillion gallons, or 55,328,020,676,352,000 or 55.3 quadrillion pounds. Bet your calculator doesn’t even have that many digits!
I know you thought clouds were weightless, but there’s really a lot of weight in that mist.
See also “Luke! How Much Do Clouds Weigh?”
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