By pairing a sleek new air sampler designed at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) with a diode laser from SpectraSensors, Inc., researchers have hit on a technology that can capture highly accurate atmospheric water vapor data during routine commercial flights. The data will benefit researchers and forecasters, who need more frequent, accurate measurements at various altitudes worldwide to improve weather forecasts and monitor climate change.
Currently water vapor data is gathered by an older style of sensor using a thin-film capacitor. These sensors are launched on weather balloons every 12 hours from stations around the country. Satellites also gather water vapor data, but at low vertical resolution. The WVSS II aboard commercial flights will gather data more often, at higher vertical resolution, and at lower cost than satellites and balloons.
"Water vapor sounds boring," says recently retired UCAR scientist Rex Fleming, who designed the innovative air sampler, "but its essential to almost everything that happens in the atmosphere." Better water vapor data from around the U.S. and the world can improve forecasts of thunderstorms, microbursts, turbulence, fog, ceiling visibility, rotating wakes from other aircraft, snow and ice storms, and year-round precipitation, he says.
Anatta | EurekAlert!
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