Dr. Bob Oglesby, senior atmospheric scientist (NASA/MSFC/Doug Stoffer)
It´s tricky, this weather business — predicting drought, floods, rain or snow, especially months in advance. But NASA scientists at the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, Ala., are working to take the guesswork out of long-term prediction.
"We´re researching methods to predict precipitation a season or more in advance," said Dr. Bob Oglesby, a senior atmospheric scientist at the research center. The key, he said, is understanding how the atmosphere interacts with the land — sometimes in a way that completely alters the expected climate of a geographic area.
"The Gulf of Mexico, for example, is what keeps the Southeast from becoming semi-arid, or in the worst-case scenario, a big desert," he said, explaining that atmospheric flow sweeps primarily from west to east. Without the gulf, states like Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia would be forced to seek moisture from the Pacific Ocean. "But a series of mountain ranges blocks the way," he said. "If it weren´t for the nearby gulf, the lush, green landscapes of Southeast might more closely resemble the semi-arid landscapes of the great plains."
Steve Roy | NSSTC News
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