Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

For hurricanes, storms, raindrop size makes all the difference

10.06.2008
When Tropical Storm Gaston hit Richmond, Va., in August 2004, its notable abundance of small and mid-sized raindrops created torrential rains that led to unexpected flash flooding throughout the city and its suburbs.

New research from NASA has concluded that tropical cyclones like Gaston produce rain differently than another class of storms called "extra-tropical" cyclones. According to the study, making a proper distinction between these systems by looking at both raindrop size and abundance may be a key to assisting weather forecasters in estimating rainfall intensity. By doing so, forecasters can reduce the surprise factor of flash flooding and the unfortunate loss of property and life.

Ali Tokay, a research scientist from the Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET) at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., compared the rain measurements collected in tropical storms and hurricanes during the past three Atlantic hurricane seasons with measurements after these storms transitioned to being extra-tropical. Tokay's study appeared in the May issue of the American Meteorological Society's Monthly Weather Review.

When a tropical cyclone -- the generic name for tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes -- merges with a mid-latitude frontal storm system, measurable changes to the raindrop size and abundance occur as the system transitions to become extra-tropical. Extra-tropical cyclones also form outside the tropics without being part of a tropical system, and tend to form over land rather than over the open ocean. This category of storm can produce anything from a cloudy sky to a thunderstorm as it develops between weather fronts, the boundaries separating air masses of different densities.

Tokay looked at raindrop size, rain intensity, and the area in which rain falls in both tropical cyclones and extra-tropical cyclones using ground-based rain-measuring instruments called disdrometers. These instruments measure the range of raindrop sizes in a storm and the intensity of the rainfall. The disdrometer is an important part of the ground-based rain measuring instruments that are used to validate rainfall seen from satellites including the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), a joint mission with NASA and the Japanese Space Agency. He concluded that tropical cyclones that form over water tend to rain harder and have a greater amount of smaller drops before they transition to being extra-tropical with raindrops of larger size and mass.

"Torrents of rainfall from tropical storms are not surprising since the systems are large and move slowly. It is also true that slow moving frontal systems associated with an extra-tropical cyclone can result in abundant rainfall at a site," said Tokay. "What is less known is that the distribution of raindrops within a volume of air between the two systems differs substantially even though weather radar may measure the same returned power which is known as reflectivity." This is why disdrometer measurements of raindrop size are needed.

"Both rain intensity and reflectivity are integral products of raindrop size distribution, but they are mathematically related to different powers of the drop size," said Tokay. Weather radars cannot measure the range of raindrop sizes. As a result, rainfall estimates from weather radars must employ the use of equations that make assumptions about raindrop size. These assumptions can result in underestimation of rain intensity, and the possibility of deadly flooding.

In the study, Tokay uses disdrometer data from various sites around the U.S. and abroad. Most of the data were collected at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., where Paul Bashor of Computer Sciences Corporation, Wallops Island, Va. maintains several types of disdrometers. The data from two tropical storms were collected at Orlando, Fla., and Lafayette, La. through collaborative efforts with Takis Kasparis at the University of Central Florida's Orlando campus, and Emad Habib of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Lynn Chandler | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hurricanes/archives/2008/raindrop_size.html

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht "Flight recorder" of rocks within the Earth’s crust
16.04.2019 | Universität Bern

nachricht More than 90% of glacier volume in the Alps could be lost by 2100
09.04.2019 | European Geosciences Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

Im Focus: A long-distance relationship in femtoseconds

Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.

Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...

Im Focus: Researchers 3D print metamaterials with novel optical properties

Engineers create novel optical devices, including a moth eye-inspired omnidirectional microwave antenna

A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

New automated biological-sample analysis systems to accelerate disease detection

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New eDNA technology used to quickly assess coral reefs

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>