NASA Unveils New Technology to Examine Snow Storms
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va.- For the first time in 30 years, NASA is revamping how it looks at snow storms.
On Tuesday, the agency unveiled its IMPACTS mission--a snowstorm chasing field campaign along the East Coast.
NASA will be using two specialized aircraft to investigate each storm: the ER-2 high-altitude aircraft and the NASA P-3 aircraft. The latter will be housed at Wallops Island.
"Studying east coast snowstorms is a big forecasting challenge so that was the challenge that was put forth in front of us," says Dr. Lynn McMurdie, a University of Washington research Associate Professor. "Another thing that's challenging is forecasting the distribution of snow, where is it going to snow heavily, where is it going to not snow as heavily. In each individual storm it varies from storm to storm."
The ER-2 aircraft will have remote sensing equipment similar to what you can find on satellites. The P-3 aircraft has probes on the wings that actually take pictures of snowflakes.
"They hit the probe, it melts, and they are able to tell how much water is there," explains Dr. Gail Skofronick-Jackson, an IMPACTS mission program scientist. "There’s also temperature and water vapor measurements that help us better understand the layer by layer within the storm."
Investigators say they will be looking at how to change how models work and how they simulate snowfall. The improvements in the modeling will in the long run help improve forecasts.
The IMPACTS field campaign will run January 15th through March 1st. It continues each winter through the winter of 2022.