SAN DIEGO — Scripps researchers are launching weather balloons and an aircraft to study the incoming storm heading into San Diego on Thursday.

Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at UC San Diego hope to learn from this atmospheric river to improve forecasts and help maintain water reservoirs in the state.

Scripps scientists are planning to team up with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Air Force to fly into the storm.

A WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft will carry U.S. Air Force Hurricane Hunters into the storm before it makes landfall into San Diego.

“The Air Force Hurricane Hunters who operate the C-130 jets fly over atmospheric rivers in the northeast Pacific which we can see via satellite, but a lot of the intensity of the atmospheric river is in the water and the wind. The water vapor and the wind that is much closer to the surface and is difficult to see,” said Anna Wilson with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Wilson hopes to “really pinpoint how strong the atmospheric river is and how much precipitation might result.”

The Air Force Hurricane Hunters are expected to take flight from Sacramento Thursday morning. 

Meanwhile, the NOAA Gulfstream IV will take off Friday to study the atmospheric river.

Scripps researchers are also launching weather balloons in Northern California. 

“Those are going to give us profiles of temperature, moisture and winds, and that’s going to help us observe atmospheric rivers right as they’re making landfall,” Wilson said.

Researchers say collecting this weather data will help improve forecasts and warn residents on the ground.

“The more lead time we have about exactly where the atmospheric rivers are going to hit in California, how much precipitation they’ll bring and how long they will last is really critical, both for water resource management but also for emergency response and preparedness,” Wilson said.

Scripps Researchers say these atmospheric rivers bring most of the water supply to the California and also cause nearly all the hazardous flooding in the state.