Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Advanced Aircraft to Probe Hazardous Atmospheric Whirlwinds

02.03.2006


A mountain wave cloud hovers over California’s Owens Valley. This month, a team of scientists, using the advanced HIAPER aircraft and other tools, is launching a field project to learn more about the turbulent rotors that form underneath mountain waves. (Photo courtesy Jay Packer.)


The nation’s newest and most advanced research aircraft will participate in its first major mission March 1 through April 30, when it will study a severe type of atmospheric turbulence that forms near mountains and endangers airplanes. The $81.5 million HIAPER aircraft, owned by the National Science Foundation and operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), will fly over treacherous whirlwinds, known as rotors, as they form above California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range.

HIAPER (High-performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research) will embark on a series of 10-hour flights that will take it from its base at Jefferson County Airport in Colorado to California’s Owens Valley during next month’s Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment, or T-REX. The aircraft will explore the mountain waves that form over the Sierra Nevada and are associated with the rotors, as well as study the impacts of the waves on atmospheric regions as high as the stratosphere. The research will lead to better prediction of these aviation hazards.

Rotors, which form on the lee side of high, steep mountains beneath the cresting waves of air, have contributed to a number of aircraft accidents, but scientists know little about their structure and evolution. They are common in the Sierras because the area has the steepest topography in the continental United States. Owens Valley sits some 10,000 feet directly below the highest peaks of the adjacent mountains.



"From a scientific point of view, this will be a fantastic part of the atmosphere to be flying around in because of the mountain waves, the turbulence, and the movements of air masses," says NCAR scientist Jorgen Jensen. "With our advanced instrument payload and our flight paths, the amount of data we will collect will be absolutely unprecedented for describing airflow over mountains."

HIAPER, a highly instrumented Gulfstream V that is capable of reaching an altitude of 51,000 feet and cruising for 7,000 miles, is ideally suited for the experiment.

"HIAPER’s first science campaign, on the origin and evolution of rotors, could not have been done without the long-range capabilities of the aircraft," says Margaret Leinen, NSF assistant director for geosciences. "In addition, the communications and data capabilities of HIAPER will allow the entire science team of T-REX to participate in the experiment, whether or not they are actually flying on board. "

James Huning, the program manager for HIAPER at the National Science Foundation, adds, "The project will help forecasters predict when and where rotors are most likely to occur and the degree of their intensity, as well as the nature of the mountain waves, or gravity waves, that crest high above rotors and cause strong turbulence. Without HIAPER, this understanding would not be possible."

NCAR’s Earth Observing Laboratory will oversee T-REX field operations from Bishop, California, and manage the resulting data.

"The results of this project should help pilots by enabling computer models to be more effective in forecasting turbulent conditions associated with mountain waves," explains Richard Dirks, NCAR field operations director.

Project details

The international research team of about 60 scientists, led by scientific project director Vanda Grubišiæ of the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada, will study the rotors from several perspectives. On the ground, researchers will probe them with radars, lidars (laser-based radars), automated weather stations, wind profilers, and balloons. Researchers aboard HIAPER will observe the rotors from above and release dropsondes (instruments that contain temperature, wind, and other sensors) into the most turbulent areas. Two other aircraft from the University of Wyoming and a team of British government agencies, flying at lower elevations, will also gather data and aim cloud radars into the rotors.

The data they retrieve should help researchers understand the three-dimensional nature of the rotors. The project will help forecasters predict when and where rotors are most likely to occur and the degree of their intensity, as well as the nature of the mountain waves, or gravity waves, that crest high above the rotors and cause strong turbulence as well.

"Rotors have intrigued scientists since the 19th century, and frustrated pilots since they started flying near the mountains," Grubišiæ says. "With the newest advances in airborne measurements, remote sensing, and atmospheric numerical modeling, we are now in a position to tackle some basic scientific questions on the evolution, structure, and predictability of rotors and also breaking mountain waves. We expect T-REX results to help improve aviation safety near mountainous terrain."

Scientists will also study the pollutants and particles that are moved around by the waves and affect climate and air quality. By flying as high as the lower stratosphere, HIAPER will enable researchers to gather data about the distribution of chemicals high in the atmosphere after they get rearranged by mountain waves.

A research veteran

The T-REX team will include veteran NCAR scientist Joachim Kuettner, who first explored the newly discovered mountain waves in Germany in the 1930s at the helm of an open sailplane. Now 96, Kuettner is a principal investigator on T-Rex. "I’ve always wanted to explore the rotors," he says. "It’s taken me this long."

David Hosansky | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucar.edu

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>