Summertime in northern Australia means monsoon storms -- and plenty of them. Tall, turbulent clouds associated with these storm systems form rapidly, release their energy in the form of rain, then tail away, leaving in their wake a surplus of moisture to feed the next system. This lifecycle--the formation of tropical convective clouds, their outflow into cirrus clouds, and eventual dissipation into water vapor--is a key component of tropical climate. However, the cloud properties and the extent of their impact on the environment are not well understood or well represented in computer models that are used to simulate climate change.
This week, a team of more than 25 international cloud climate scientists are conducting a three-day operations and planning simulation at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California, to prepare for a complex experiment that will result in the most detailed data sets ever collected for tropical convection. Led by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), the Tropical Warm Pool International Cloud Experiment will take place in the region around Darwin, Australia, between January and February 2006.
Darwin is home to one of the ARM Program’s permanent research sites, equipped with a sophisticated array of remote sensing instruments to collect the continuous measurements needed to improve computer models that simulate clouds and climate. The upcoming experiment will include an unprecedented network of ground-based instrumentation, a ship operating off the coast near Darwin, and a fleet of low-, middle- and high-altitude aircraft for in-situ and remote-sensing measurements. Aircraft measurements taken during the experiment will be valuable for validating and improving existing ground-based measurements from the ARM site in Darwin, as well as satellite observations obtained by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
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