Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA Mission Seeks to Uncover a Rainfall Mystery

28.04.2011
Scientists from NASA and other organizations are on a mission to unlock the mysteries of why certain clouds produce copious amounts of rain. In a field mission that is now under way, aircraft are carrying instruments above and into rain clouds. Meanwhile scientists are also getting rainfall measurements on the ground.

This field campaign provides the most comprehensive observations of rainfall in the U.S. through the use of aircraft, spacecraft, remote sensing and ground sensors.

Convective clouds are the focus of a NASA mission that runs from April to June, 2011. Convective clouds form when warm, moist air rises and condenses at higher altitudes. Cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds or thunderclouds are types of convective clouds.

On April 22, scientists from NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched a weeks-long field campaign to learn more about the inner workings of cloud systems that generate significant amounts of rainfall. The field campaign, called the Mid-latitude Continental Convective Clouds Experiment (MC3E), will run until June 6 from the DOE's Southern Great Plains site near Ponca City in central Oklahoma. Because April through June is severe weather season in Oklahoma, there will be plenty of convective clouds to study.

"Because precipitation is so critical to our daily existence, we naturally would like to know how much rain falls at any given place and time," said Walt Petersen, a scientist at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., who is leading NASA's component of the campaign. "Our goal is to observe and measure the entire precipitation process, from the ice that forms near the tops of clouds to the rainfall that ends up on the ground."

Campaign scientists say the effort is unprecedented in scope. It combines data gathered by instruments on the ground as well as those installed on aircraft flying at varying altitudes. This way, researchers can simultaneously observe clouds from high altitudes using instruments installed on NASA’s ER-2 aircraft, while sampling the sizes, types, and shapes of precipitation from aircraft flying at lower altitudes within the cloud. Meanwhile, ground-based radars and imaging networks are analyzing the precipitation that actually falls to the ground.

Data from various satellites are also being used in MC3E. NASA's CloudSat, CALIPSO, Aqua, and Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellites are also providing data to the field campaign. NOAA is providing data from their GOES and polar orbiting satellites.

The goal of MC3E is to intensively sample the entire column of the atmosphere underneath the satellite simulator (the ER-2) and verify that all aircraft and ground-based measurements paint a consistent picture of precipitation physics, Petersen said.

Convective clouds are most common in the tropics. Convective cloud systems are also common at higher latitudes, including Oklahoma, and appear as puffs, mounds, or towering clouds that can range from as low as 1,000 feet to more than 50,000 feet. In these clouds, large amounts of water vapor are cooled and condensed into water droplets and eventually falls as precipitation.

"Convective cloud processes play a critical role in our daily lives," added Michael Jensen, the meteorologist leading the DOE element of the MC3E campaign. "To represent these cloud systems in computer models of the atmosphere, we need to understand the details of why these clouds form, where they form, how they grow and shrink, and what factors control the amount of rain that falls from them. MC3E will provide insights into all of these questions."

Scientists will use this data to advance techniques for deriving more accurate rainfall information from a network of satellites as part of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission satellite to be launched in 2013. GPM, an international partnership lead by NASA and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in coordination with space agencies of many nations, will measure rain and snow over the entire globe using more sophisticated instruments. It builds on the success of the NASA-JAXA TRMM satellite, which provides scientists with daily worldwide rain intensities in the tropics.

"Our ability to relate satellite observations to rain that hits the ground requires detailed knowledge of the atmospheric column above it," says Arthur Hou, the GPM project scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "That is why data collected in field campaigns like MC3E are vital for refining satellite algorithms during the pre-launch phase."

"The end goal of this campaign is to collect a dataset that enables us to build the best set of methods to estimate the amount of precipitation over a point on the earth's surface from an orbiting GPM satellite," Petersen explained. This will improve the accuracy of future satellite instruments, including those flying on GPM.

Rani Gran | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov
http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/rain-campaign.html

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Live from the ocean research vessel Atlantis
13.12.2018 | National Science Foundation

nachricht NSF-supported scientists present new research results on Earth's critical zone
13.12.2018 | National Science Foundation

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>