Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Improved Water Vapor Sensor Takes to the Skies

16.06.2005


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 it’s 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.


Water vapor also plays an important role in small storms that develop quickly and wreak havoc with airline schedules and safety. The Federal Aviation Administration estimates these storms can cost the aviation industry more than $1 billion annually.

Improved aviation weather forecasts can make flying safer, allow airlines to expand the number and location of routes, provide alternate landing options, and save fuel. Over the long term, the new data can verify computer model projections of climate change, which indicate water vapor steadily increasing in Earth’s atmosphere. As a greenhouse gas, water vapor is 10 times more potent than carbon dioxide and its increase is a key factor in the rising global temperatures appearing in the models.

The FAA certified the WVSS II for commercial aircraft flights last December. Preliminary results show the WVSS II data are highly consistent with the balloon data up to 35,000 feet. This month’s tests should lead to verification of the sensing system for other uses by forecasters, air traffic controllers, and research scientists.

"In a typical year, more water in the form of vapor and clouds flows over the dry state of Arizona than flows down the Mississippi River," says Fleming. "Yet we have not had a sensing system to collect accurate water vapor data frequently enough to be really useful for forecasts." Commercial aircraft can fill a critical gap in atmospheric observations by gathering accurate data throughout the global atmosphere, he adds.

Mounted flush on the outside of the plane, Fleming’s sampler channels air into the measurement cell housed in a casing the size of a cigar box just inside the aircraft shell. The sampler weeds out most ice crystals, particles, rain, and other distractions to improve the sensitivity of the measurement. The laser frequency itself sees only water vapor in the air flow.

UPS has provided wind and temperature data to meteorologists from more than half its air fleet since 1994. In 1997, UPS added water vapor information, expressed as relative humidity, from a first-generation test sensor installed on 30 aircraft. The new second-generation sensors are expected to be far more accurate and reliable, especially at higher altitudes and colder temperatures.

Southwest Airlines will begin flying the system when further government funds are available. The German Weather Service is in the process of certifying the sensor, and Lufthansa will be installing four units on commercial flights later this year. New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa will collaborate with the German Weather Service on an initial purchase of ten units.

The FAA’s Aviation Weather Research Program and NOAA’s Office of Global Programs funded development of the WVSS II. The diode laser cell was designed by Randy May of SpectraSensors, the manufacturer of the product.

Opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any of UCAR’s sponsors.

Anatta | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucar.edu/news/releases/2005/fleming.shtml
http://www.ucar.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes
20.07.2018 | Science China Press

nachricht Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers
20.07.2018 | Purdue University

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>