Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Storm Chasers of Utah: Radar Truck Seeks Wasatch Snow, Rain

11.11.2011
A truck-mounted radar dish often used to chase Midwest tornadoes is getting a workout in Utah this month as University of Utah meteorologists use it to get an unprecedented look inside snow and rain storms over the Salt Lake Valley and the surrounding Wasatch and Oquirrh mountains.

“For students who love snow, it’s every bit as thrilling as chasing tornadoes,” says avid skier and atmospheric sciences Professor Jim Steenburgh. “That’s why we call it storm chasing, Utah style.”

The Storm Chasing Utah Style Study, SCHUSS – the term for a straight, downhill ski run – makes use of a Doppler on Wheels (DOW) radar truck operated by the Center for Severe Weather Research in Boulder, Colo., for the National Science Foundation.

“We have never been able to examine the ‘guts’ of Wasatch winter storms like we can with the Doppler on Wheels radar that is presently here in Salt Lake City,” Steenburgh wrote recently in his Wasatch Weather Weenies blog. “In particular, we can take a meteorological CAT scan of winter storms to see their inner workings.”

The Doppler on Wheels truck arrived in Salt Lake City on Oct. 21 and will be here until Nov. 21. During Oct. 22-23, a dozen University of Utah graduate students were trained to drive the truck and use the 6-foot-diameter radar dish transmitter and receiver.

The portable “X-band polarimetric Doppler radar” system was developed originally for studying tornadoes, and Steenburgh says it “measured the strongest wind ever recorded during the Moore, Okla., tornado” in 1999 – clocked at 318 mph

The truck’s radar emits and receives radio waves horizontally and vertically. This provides more information than radars used by the National Weather Service, which plans to upgrade to the new radars in the next few years.

Steenburgh says the DOW radar can distinguish the size and shape of snowflakes and raindrops in a storm, can collect data on lower-elevation valley locations and can park closer to storms and thus get more detail.

“Despite improvements in weather forecasting over the past few decades, winter storms in Utah remain a challenge to predict,” Steenburgh says. “Unlike radars used for weather forecasting, the Doppler on Wheels can be placed anywhere during a storm, enabling us to peer into storms and uncover their secrets. The information we collect can be used to better understand lake-effect, mountain and other Utah storms, and improve computer models used for weather prediction.”

When the truck is used to chase tornadoes, “you are constantly driving,” he says. “We don’t move it around a lot. We let the storm come to us. … But in a long-lived, multiday storm, we would probably move it as the storm characteristics change.”

Steenburgh hopes the truck’s radar can be used to study eight to 10 storms during its time in Utah, although there haven’t been many so far. As of Nov. 10, the radar truck has been deployed for five weather events:

-- The radar truck was parked at Lake Point on Interstate-80 and used to look at the structure of a dry, cold front that moved across the Great Salt Lake Oct. 24-25.

-- From an observation point on State Route 111 on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley, the radar observed puffy cumulus clouds over the Wasatch Range on Oct. 26.

-- On Oct. 30, the radar was deployed to observe breezes blowing southward off the Great Salt Lake and into Rush Valley.

-- Parked again on SR-111, the radar truck watched as a cold front with rain and snow moved over the Salt Lake Valley on Nov. 1. The radar captured a burst of heavy snow over Twin Peaks in the Wasatch Range, and got unprecedented images of the “transition zone” where falling snowflakes turn to raindrops. The exact elevation of the transition zone is critical to forecasting if a city like Salt Lake will experience weather of 32 degrees Fahrenheit with heavy snow or 35 degrees with rain.

“The truck is teaching our students with a new kind of radar to better determine where the snow level is and where precipitation is transitioning from rain to snow, which is a big piece of figuring out how much snow is going to fall at any particular location,” Steenburgh says.

-- A big snowstorm, with some snow enhanced by the Great Salt Lake’s “lake effect,” was captured by the radar truck on Nov. 4 and 5 as it dumped several inches of snow on Salt Lake City and other Wasatch Front cities. University of Utah students pulled an all-nighter in the truck making measurements of the storm.

“We got an unprecedented data set on the lake effect snow that fell Saturday morning,” Steenburgh says. “It was phenomenal.”

Steenburgh’s enthusiasm for bad weather comes across in his blog. During the Nov. 1 storm, he told his students: “Just ooh and ahh as you see precipitation bands moving across the mountains.” And when the snow started flying Nov. 4, he wrote: “We now have data flowing in from this storm. So psyched.”

A video showing radar images of a Nov. 5 lake-effect snowband (orange) moving from the southeastern Great Salt Lake to the Wasatch Range (red) may be downloaded from:

http://www.inscc.utah.edu/~steenburgh/SCHUSS-IMAGES/dowlakebandloop.mov

A video showing the Nov. 5 lake-effect snowband (orange), first in birds-eye-view, and then moving to a horizontal view from the northeast, maybe downloaded from:

http://www.inscc.utah.edu/~steenburgh/SCHUSS-IMAGES/dowlakebandinvertical.mov

Additional photos related to this news release may be downloaded from:
http://www.inscc.utah.edu/~alcott/dow/dow.html
Jim Steenburgh’s Wasatch Weather Weenies blog: http://wasatchweatherweenies.blog spot.com

Website of the Center for Severe Weather Research: http://www.cswr.org/

University of Utah Public Relations
201 Presidents Circle, Room 308
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-9017
(801) 581-6773 fax: (801) 585-3350

Lee Siegel | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.unews.utah.edu
http://www.cswr.org/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Atmospheric scientists reveal the effect of sea-ice loss on Arctic warming
11.03.2019 | Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

nachricht Sensing shakes
11.03.2019 | University of Tokyo

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

Im Focus: Sussex scientists one step closer to a clock that could replace GPS and Galileo

Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock

Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...

Im Focus: Sensing shakes

A new way to sense earthquakes could help improve early warning systems

Every year earthquakes worldwide claim hundreds or even thousands of lives. Forewarning allows people to head for safety and a matter of seconds could spell...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Levitating objects with light

19.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New technique for in-cell distance determination

19.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Stellar cartography

19.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>