Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Inside a Snowstorm: Scientists Obtain Close-Up Look at Old Man Winter

12.01.2011
Doppler-on-Wheels Gives New View of Lake-Effect Snows

In this winter of heavy snows--with more on the way this week--nature's bull's-eye might be Oswego, N.Y., and the nearby Tug Hill Plateau.


DOW Doppler radar of cells in a snowband; the coiled hooks are the most intense snows.

There the proximity of the Great Lakes whips wind and snow into high gear. Old Man Winter then blows across New York state, burying cities and towns in snowdrifts several feet high. This season, however, something is standing in his way.

The Doppler-on-Wheels (DOW), a data-collecting radar dish, is waiting. This month and next, scientists inside the DOW are tracking snowstorms in and around Oswego to learn what drives lake-effect snowstorms that form parallel to the long axis of a Great Lake and produce enormous snowfall rates.

These long lake-axis-parallel (LLAP) bands of snow are more intense than those of other snow squalls and produce some of the highest snowfall rates and amounts in the world, say atmospheric scientists Scott Steiger of the State University of New York (SUNY)-Oswego, Jeffrey Frame of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Alfred Stamm of SUNY-Oswego.

"The mobility of a DOW," Steiger says, "is ideal for following lake-effect storms. The DOW will allow us to witness them as they form and cross lakes, which other weather radars can't do."

The DOW, or more properly "DOWs" as there are three, is a National Science Foundation (NSF) atmospheric science facility.

A DOW looks more like the dish of a radio telescope than a sophisticated weather instrument. It's mounted on the back of a flat-bed truck. With a DOW on board, the truck becomes an odd configuration of generator, equipment and operator cabin.

Ungainly as it may appear, it's ideally suited to provide detailed information on the inner workings of snow and other storms, says Josh Wurman, director of the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR) in Boulder, Colo.

Wurman should know. He and colleagues developed the first DOW in 1995.

The DOW uses Doppler radar to produce velocity data about severe storms at a distance.

When a DOW is deployed, it collects fine-scale data from within a snowstorm and displays features that can't be seen with more distant radars.

The DOW radars are dual polarization, says Wurman, which means that they send out both horizontally- and vertically-oriented energy. By looking at differences in the energy bounced back from these horizontal and vertical beams, scientists can learn more about the snowflakes, ice, rain and snow pellets in snowbands.

"NSF's dual-polarization DOW radars offer an important new avenue toward better understanding this intense winter weather phenomenon affecting the Great Lakes region," says Brad Smull, program director in NSF's Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funds the DOWs and the LLAP project.

The DOWs measure Doppler winds, snow intensity, and properties related to whether snow is dense, comprised of pellets, or formed from loose collections of traditional six-sided snowflakes. A storm's snow crystal type plays a major role in whether lake-effect snowbands drop a few inches of snow--or more than two feet.

"Understanding snow type is critically important," says Wurman.

The DOWs collect data that will be used to determine how LLAP snowbands intensify and weaken, and move across a region. The scientists are right behind.

"Instead of waiting for snowbands to come to us," says Wurman, "we and the DOWs are going to them."

After forecasting likely snowband events, Steiger, Wurman and colleagues and the DOW drive to one of more than 30 sites near Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and the Tug Hill Plateau to monitor LLAP snowbands.

During the past week, scientists deployed the DOW to four locations near Oswego and Rochester to study intense snowbands. The bands dropped snow at up to four inches per hour, with final totals of more than two feet.

Initial findings are that intense storm circulations were observed in the bands, and that the snow type changed during the passage of the storm.

More lake effect snows are forecast for this weekend. DOWs and scientists are again heading to New York hilltops to peer inside.

Old Man Winter may have no choice but to give up his secrets.

Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF (703) 292-7734 cdybas@nsf.gov

Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht A close-up look at an uncommon underwater eruption
11.01.2018 | Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

nachricht Environmental history told by sludge: Global warming lets the dead zones in the Black Sea grow
10.01.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

White graphene makes ceramics multifunctional

16.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

Breaking bad metals with neutrons

16.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

ISFH-CalTeC is “designated test centre” for the confirmation of solar cell world records

16.01.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>