Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA planes fly into snowstorms to study snowfall

Hexbyte Glen Cove

NASA’s ER-2, a high-altitude jet equipped with a suite of science instruments, takes off. Credit: NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center

Scientists repeatedly check the weather forecasts as they prepare aircraft for flight and perform last-minute checks on science instruments. There’s a large winter storm rolling in, but that’s exactly what these storm-chasing scientists are hoping for.

The team is tracking storms across the Midwest and Eastern United States in two NASA planes equipped with to help understand the inner workings of as they form and develop. The team is flying two aircraft to investigate winter storms, one above the storm and one within the clouds. Each is equipped with a suite of scientific instruments to collect data about particles and the conditions in which they form. The experiments are part of the second deployment of NASA’s Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Storms (IMPACTS) mission, which began in January and is planned to wrap up at the end of February.

This data will help the team relate properties of the snow particles and their environment to large-scale processes—such as the structure of clouds and precipitation patterns—that can be seen with remote sensing instruments on aircraft and satellites. Ultimately, what the IMPACTS team learns about snowstorms will improve meteorological models and our ability to use satellite data to predict how much snow will fall and where.

Surveying a Variety of Storms

Storms often form narrow structures called snow bands, said Lynn McMurdie, principal investigator for IMPACTS and an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle. One of the main goals of IMPACTS is to understand how these structures form, why some storms don’t have snow bands, and how snow bands can be used to predict snowfall. To do this, the team hopes to sample a wide variety of storms throughout the three-year IMPACTS campaign.

During the 2020 IMPACTS campaign, the team sampled a variety of storms in the Midwest and East Coast, including warmer rainstorms and storms with strong cold fronts and convection. But McMurdie says the team didn’t see a Nor’easter, a storm with a strong low-pressure system that moves up the New England coast and mixes moisture from the Atlantic Ocean with cold air from Canada.

Nor’easters come up the East Coast and can dump several feet of snow, effectively shutting down cities, said John Yorks, one of the deputy principal investigators for IMPACTS at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Being better able to predict where these storms will bring snow and how much could help cities better prepare for severe winter weather.

On Jan. 4, 2022, the MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of snowfall after a large storm dumped wet, heavy snow across the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Some areas accumulated over 14 inches, shutting down businesses, schools, and interstate highways. Credit: NASA

Above, Below and Into the Clouds

NASA and its partners have several satellites that measure precipitation from space, such as the Global Precipitation Measurement mission that observes rain and snow around most of the world every three hours. “But satellites can’t tell us a lot about the particles—the actual snowflakes—and where they form within the clouds,” said Gerry Heymsfield, one of the deputy principal investigators for IMPACTS at Goddard. IMPACTS is run out of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, which is managed by Goddard.

Instead, IMPACTS is flying two aircraft outfitted with scientific instruments. The NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s ER-2, a high-altitude jet flying out of the Pope Army Airfield near Fayetteville, North Carolina, will fly at about 65,000 feet to get a top-down view from above the clouds. The instruments aboard the ER-2 are similar to those on satellites but with higher spatial resolution, additional measurement capabilities and more frequent sampling. Scientists on the ground are also measuring cloud properties from below using ground-based radars.

“A project like IMPACTS can really complement those spacecraft measurements with aircraft measurements that are higher resolution, higher accuracy, sample an event more frequently, and provide additional parameters such as Doppler measurements,” said Yorks.

The other aircraft, the P-3 Orion based out of Wallops, flies at altitudes up to 26,000 feet. Probes hanging off the P-3’s wings measure the size, shape and distribution of precipitation particles. Flying the P-3 at different altitudes allows the team to measure snow particles throughout the cloud, and the temperature, water vapor, and other conditions in which they form.

The P-3 also drops small instruments, called dropsondes, over the ocean. These instruments work like weather balloons in reverse, measuring temperature, wind and humidity in the atmosphere as they fall. The team is also launching weather balloons every few hours as the storm passes overhead from several sites that move depending on which storm the team is studying. The data collected by the dropsondes and weather balloons provide information about the atmospheric conditions before, during and after the .

“Snowstorms are really complicated storms, and we need every piece of data—models, aircraft instruments, meteorological soundings—to really figure out what’s going on within these storms,” said Heymsfield.

The multi-year IMPACTS campaign is the first comprehensive study of snowstorms across the Eastern United States in 30 years. The science team includes researchers from NASA, several universities across the country, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and NOAA, including partners at the National Weather Service.

NASA planes fly into snowstorms to study snowfall (2022, January 28)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Deadly snowstorms cause chaos across Spain thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Deadly snowstorms cause chaos across Spain

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Firefighters helped by the army, freed hundreds of motorists overnight

Snowstorms across much of Spain left three people dead and caused chaos across much of the country, trapping motorists and closing the capital’s air and rail links, with more falls to come Saturday.

On Friday, Madrid experienced its heaviest snowfalls since 1971 after what the AEMET weather agency described as “exceptional and most likely historic” conditions caused by Storm Filomena.

It warned that another 20 centimetres (nearly eight inches) was expected to fall Saturday in Madrid and central Spain’s lower plains, with up to 50 centimetres at higher altitudes.

“Even if, despite the extremely difficult weather conditions, the number of incidents is relatively limited, we have three deaths to mourn,” Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska told a news conference.

Apart from Madrid, the exceptional conditions put another four regions in the centre of the country on red alert Saturday: Aragon, Valencia, Castilla La Mancha and Catalonia.

On Twitter, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called on people to stay indoors and follow the instructions of the emergency services. He paid tribute to the work of the rescue agencies who had helped hundreds of people trapped in the show overnight.

Madrid’s Barajas airport was shut down late Friday, transport officials said the snowfall disrupted traffic on nearly 400 roads, and the Renfe rail network said all trains to and from Madrid had been cancelled.

Madrid’s emergencies agency said they had worked all night to help trapped motorists, freeing a thousand vehicles. They asked others still stuck to be patient.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez urged people to stay at home where possible

‘Extremely serious’

Motorist Patricia Manzanares told national television how she had been stranded without food for 15 hours on the M-40 motorway in the Madrid region.

“I’ve been here since 7 o’clock last night, there are lot of us in this situation. There are 60 centimetres of snow and we are soon going to run out of petrol” and thus lose their cars’ heating, she said.

Madrid authorities have closed the parks, as well as suspending bus services and rubbish collections in the city after a night in which the snow continued to fall steadily.

Mayor of Madrid, Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida described the situation as “extremely serious” in a tweet Saturday.

“We are working to clear access to hospitals as quickly as possible,” he told the La Sexta television channel Saturday. “But frankly that is complicated, it has been snowing so much.” The army had been called in on Friday to help the authorities, he added.

In Madrid itself, the army was helping to clear roads using snow ploughs and has also helped rescue some motorists.

At least two of the city’s metro lines had their services disrupted by the conditions.

Schools and universities in and around Madrid will be closed Monday and Tuesday, said the president of the region Isabel Diaz Ayuso.

Skiers—and even a man on a sled drawn by five dogs—could not resist the wintry conditions in the capital venturing out on to the normally busy Puerta del Sol.

Forecasters say the heavy snow will continue until Sunday

Heavy-lorry ban

In all, 36 out of Spain’s 50 provinces declared snow alerts.

Catalonia in the southeast and Castilla La Mancha have both banned heavy goods vehicles from driving in the wintry conditions.

The historic city of Toledo asked the army for help clearing the streets, as did Albacete in the southeast, public television reported.

The exceptional conditions also hit sports fixtures, forcing the postponement of Atletico Madrid’s match against Bilbao, and the cancellation of the Spain-Croatia basketball match, which had been due to go ahead in Madrid on Saturday.

Forecasters said the heavy snow would continue until Sunday, before Storm Filomena begins moving northeast, although temperatures would remain exceptionally low.

Before the snowfall began Thursday morning, temperatures had already plummeted to an unofficial record low of -34.1 degrees Celsius (-29.38 Fahrenheit) at a ski station in the central Pyrenees on Wednesday.

Filomena has also brought intense rain and high winds to the Canary Islands as well as Spain’s southern coast.

© 2021 AFP

Deadly snowstorms cause chaos across Spain (2021, January 9)
retrieved 10 January 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-01-snowstorm-chaos-spain.html

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no
part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.